Elliot Cohen: West Palm spokesman defends outside work in respon - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Elliot Cohen: West Palm spokesman defends outside work in response to WPTV questions

West Palm Beach spokesman Elliot Cohen issued a statement today to WFLX in response to questions from the FOX 29 Investigators about his outside work for others, including another South Florida city.

Cohen, who is at the center of a controversy that began last week when it was discovered that he had posted sensitive police secrets on the city's website , makes $90,000 a year with the city.

He also owns Cohen Publicity, which does outside PR, marketing and crisis management. He disclosed his business with the Palm Beach County Ethics Commission via the filing of a conflict of interest waiver in 2012 and again in 2014.

Cohen has done work for RMA, a company the city pays to run its Community Redevelopment Agency. Earlier this year, he also did work for the town of Miami Lakes, for which he made $150 an hour. 

In his statement, Cohen defends his outside publicity work, saying all work was done on his personal time, and that his work for RMA occurred prior to the city selecting it as its CRA operator. 

Earlier this week, the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association called for Cohen's resignation over the posting of unredacted documents that included the names of confidential informants and police operations.

Mayor Jeri Muoio apologized for the release of the secret emails and has stood by Cohen, saying that the idea to post responses to public records requests on the city's website was hers.

"We're deeply sorry. This is not something that should have happened," Muoio said Tuesday.

On Wednesday, police informants told WFLX that they fear for their safety after the online blunder.

Cohen's full statement on his outside work is below.

“Outside employment is so common, the Palm Beach County Ethics Commission has a form for it. In 2012 I filled out the proper and required paperwork, was approved by the city, and as required, the form was filed with the Palm Beach County Ethics Commission. I’ve complied with the outside employment guidelines and far from hiding it, I promote it on my social media pages, including a post several months ago that mentioned my work with the Town of Miami Lakes that lasted about six months. My publicly approved and properly registered work has been a sporadic side job to supplement my government salary and in total, I’ve made less than $6,000/year over the past 3 years.

Regarding RMA, I provided limited press related work for them between January and June of 2013 at which time I issued a stop work notice because the city began to discuss the idea of outsourcing the CRA. (See email below). Long after the bid process was over, I helped them with a brief video project in the summer of 2014. I haven’t had a relationship nor have I received any revenue from them since that time.

I occasionally used my middle name in case I was quoted to protect the city and avoid any confusion that the work might be part of city business, but far from trying to hide anything, my publicly registered business name and phone number were also included.

Finally, rather than being proof of doing personal business on city time, the released email is proof of just the opposite: doing city business on my personal time off on the weekends. The email, sent at 6:38am on a Sunday morning was an image (see below) that was needed for the city’s newsletter that I was working on early that Sunday morning. The image appeared in the city newsletter that was sent out later that Sunday.” (see below) Elliot Cohen

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