Maui County has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a free speech lawsuit brought by Neldon Mamuad, a part-time county employee and creator of the popular MAUIWatch Facebook page.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced the settlement on Friday, along with Honolulu-based attorney Marcus Landsberg and attorneys Phillip Lowenthal and Samuel MacRoberts from Maui.

Mamuad’s lawsuit alleged that the county infringed on his First Amendment rights by interfering with his posts on MAUIWatch, which publicizes Maui news updates.

“The county violated my free speech rights and wasted taxpayer money by trying to censor the content of MAUIWatch,” said Mamuad, who is also a volunteer with the county liquor commission. “Hopefully the county has learned its lesson and realized that the government cannot use its power to quiet opinions it doesnʻt like.”

In addition to paying attorneys’ fees and damages, the county has agreed to change its anti-harassment policy to clarify that county employees are entitled to free speech rights outside of work.

County lawyers will also review harassment complaints at an early stage to help protect employees’ First Amendment rights. Mamuad’s record related to the case will be expunged.

“Todayʻs settlement reaffirms that government employees do not sign away their free speech rights just by working or volunteering for the government, period,” said ACLU senior staff attorney Daniel Gluck in a statement.

Contact Anita Hofschneider via email at anita@civilbeat.com or on Twitter at @ahofschneider

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