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Elliot Cohen: PBC Inspector General investigates WPB communications chief over email leak; side job

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - About a handful of emails from earlier this year appear to show former West Palm Beach City Spokesman Elliot Cohen working his side job while on the clock with the city.  

Cohen stepped down as the city's public spokesman recently following his role in the release of secret police emails on the city's website. Cohen remains with the Mayor's communication team.

In one email, Cohen schedules a 3 p.m. meeting with the Town of Miami Lakes for Monday, January 12.  An invoice obtained by the Contact 5 Investigators shows his private company, Cohen Publicity, billed the Town of Miami Lakes 2 hours for that afternoon meeting.

That same afternoon, he worked a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift for the city of West Palm Beach according to his timesheet.

In another email exchange just after 2 p.m. on March 13, Cohen sends a string of emails to town leaders in Miami Lakes where he was hired to be a part time crisis management consultant.

That same day, Cohen's city timecard shows he pulled an 8-hour day which started at 8 a.m.

Several other emails also show Cohen appearing to work his part-time gig, during his full-time job with the city.

But his boss, city administrator Jeff Green, explains what might look suspicious probably isn't.

"His timesheet says he was here and he wasn't, but that's not how our system works," Green explained to the Contact 5 Investigators.

Instead, Green says the city allows exempt employees, like Cohen, to work flexible hours.  So, while  a timesheet might read 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Green says, an employees' actual working hours may shift.

"It's no different than if you were to take off to go to a son's basketball game.  If he was working a lot of nights and weekends, he would be allowed to do that," said Green.  

As a communications chief for the city, Cohen often works nights and weekends which, Green says, gives him a lot of opportunity to work non-traditional hours.

Still, Green says it's worth taking a closer look to make sure what might not look good on paper is still good for the city.

"He did do these during the day.  It wasn't against the policy we have set up but it is something we are going to look at," he said.

Meantime, city leaders are also putting together a complete report on how Cohen posted secret police emails on the city's public website. Cohen said he did not know the emails, which were in response to a public records request by the Contact 5 Investigators, had not been redacted when he posted the emails on the city's new webpage designed to help the city be more transparent with the public. The city's transparency page has since been taken down.

 The city expects to have their full report including what they know about Cohen's side job, completed before the October 25 deadline.

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