TAGUMAWATCH UNDER FIRE
At press time, the TAGUMAWatch page on Facebook has more than 12,800 likes–an impressive tally of fans, especially since the site is not even two months old. Named for Keith Taguma, Maui’s most famous police officer, the site quickly became insanely popular on Maui–so much so that Hawaii News Now even did a story on it back in July.
“The “TAGUMAWatch” Facebook page has already racked up more than 5,900 ‘likes’ in just four days,” the Honolulu news station reported on July 10. “The site is filled with stories from drivers who have been ticketed by Taguma for speeding, not buckling up, even having tint that is too dark. People are also snapping photos of him.”
Since then, the site has focused less on Taguma and more on alerting users to more public service news items like auto accidents and storm warnings. Nonetheless, it’s attracted the attention of the County of Maui, which apparently believes the site constitutes harassment of Officer Taguma and is seeking to determine who maintains it. What’s more, they’ve already interviewed at least one suspect, who is himself a county employee.
The suspect is Neldon “AZD” Mamuad, an aide to Maui County Councilman Don Guzman (he also co-chaired Guzman’s 2012 campaign) and member of the county’s Liquor Commission. When asked whether he was, in fact, behind the Facebook page, Mamuad said cryptically, “I cannot confirm or deny that claim.” But Mamuad did say that County Corporation Counsel Pat Wong held an “informal meeting” with him “about a week or two ago” about the TAGUMAWatch page, though he says “nothing came of it.”
It’s easy to see why the county would be interested in Mamuad. From 1997 to 2007, Mamuad was a DJ for 98.3FM. Known by his nickname AZD on that station’s “Big Phat Morning Show,” Mamuad created a “Taguma Watch” feature that ran around 2004, 2005 and focused attention on Taguma. Saying he had a “political” situation with management in 2007, Mamuad left the radio station, but says today that the split was “amicable.”
When asked to comment about the investigation, County of Maui spokesman Rod Antone said, “The county has a very strict harassment policy and I can’t talk about personnel matters.”
Now I posted all of the above information on our Mauifeed.com blog on Friday, Aug. 9. Within minutes of that blog post going live, TAGUMAWatch had not only linked to the story, but had set up a new Fundrazr page that asking users to donate money to “help us withstand any legal attacks towards the TAGUMAWatch…” As of Wednesday, that site has raised $145.
What’s more, TAGUMAWatch modified its page by adopting a new profile picture of a woman with her mouth covered with tape labeled “FREEDOM,” then exchanging that for a shot from the movie The Watch.
“The threat of an investigation can shake the foundation of our coalition, but they cannot touch the foundation of the people of Maui,” stated a posting from the page’s administrator on Aug. 10. “These acts may be able to shatter the steel in our command center, but they cannot dent the steel of our resolve. TAGUMAWatch was targeted for investigation because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom, live, local, and late breaking news that bears the name of Maui’s most infamous traffic officer and no one will keep that light from shining.”
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MAUI NEWS FUMBLES COURT RULING STORY
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but on Aug. 1 The Maui News finally erected a paywall on its website (Mauinews.com). From now on, visitors to the paper’s website will have to pay to read articles that, for the last dozen or so years, the paper has saw fit to give away to readers for free (and news organizations like Mauinow.com still offer for free). But don’t think the News isn’t throwing in something extra for readers–in fact, they seem to have instituted a new policy of publishing two stories where in the past they’d just file one.
I’m referring to a couple stories that ran last week concerning a recent Hawaii Supreme Court decision in the case of Daniel Kanahele v. Maui County Council. In that case, Kanahele–a Maui County resident–sued saying the the Council’s Land Use Committee in 2007 and the Council itself in 2008 violated the state’s Open Meetings Law during hearings on the proposed Honua‘ula (Wailea 670) project.
The high court agreed with Kanahele–to a point–and said the County Council violated the so-called “Sunshine Law” by circulating 14 written memoranda that weren’t part of the public meeting. Though the court didn’t overturn the project, they did call for Kanahele to get attorney’s fees–a clear sign that he’d won a significant victory.
After the ruling, Kanahele and his attorney, Lance Collins, received numerous calls of congratulations from good government activists. They were thus surprised to open The Maui News on the morning of Aug. 9 and find that they’d actually lost. “Court: No violation of law in OK of Honua‘ula” said the headline, which was written by Maui News City Editor Brian Perry.
What’s more, the story contained copious quotes from County Council Chairperson Gladys Baisa’s press release dismissing the ruling. Also, readers had to wade through more than two-thirds of the story to find out that, in fact, Kanahele had won a victory.
Needless to say, Kanahele was perturbed, and he emailed Perry that morning. “I am disappointed by the headline you chose to use ‘Court: No Violation of Law…’ which contradicts what you reported in your article, that there was a violation of the ‘sunshine law,’ which is certainly true, for that is the Supreme [Court’s] unanimous conclusion,” Kanahele wrote to Perry. “And, I am surprised you didn’t contact any of the plaintiff’s or our attorney, Lance Collins, to get our input and hear our side of the story and report about that in your article. That would seem to be a fair and balanced thing to do.”
Collins said he talked to Perry later that day, and on Saturday, Aug. 10, The Maui News published a new story (which was strangely missing a byline) titled “Plaintiffs: ‘More than half the loaf’ in ruling” that finally, belatedly told the whole story of the court ruling.
“The court does not award attorneys’ fees to people who lose cases,” Collins dryly noted at the end of the story.