West Palm Beach spokesman Elliot Cohen leaving, saw job as city’s salesman
WEST PALM BEACH — Elliot Cohen is leaving as the city’s communications director, a job where he expanded West Palm’s outreach through TV and social media but exerted a controlling hand in parceling public information to the press while trying to compete with it as an advocate for the administration of Mayor Jeri Muoio.
Cohen came under fire in 2015 after he dumped more than 2,000 pages of police emails on the city website in response to a reporter’s information request, without blanking out names of undercover police or confidential informants. At least one informant had to be moved out of town as a result.
Cohen was eventually cleared by the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics but the mayor removed him from most direct contact with the media, a role in which he’d made himself an intermediary between city officials and reporters who wanted to speak with them or request public records.
Thursday he said he’d taken a private sector job in South Florida and would leave his West Palm Beach job Aug. 19. “It’s kind of exciting and unusual,” he said, declining to name the company.
“He has a good opportunity. I wish him well. We are going to miss him,” City Administrator Jeff Green said. “He’s done a good job for the city.”
Cohen, formerly a reporter for WPLG-TV in Miami and WPBF-TVin West Palm, was hired by Mayor Lois Frankel in 2005 but left after a year to do public relations work for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. That ended after Sheriff Ken Jenne resigned in 2007, the sheriff pleading guilty to federal tax evasion and mail fraud.
He worked for a medical management company called Health First in Central Florida, then joined the Muoio Administration in May 2012.
In West Palm, where he received a $97,000 salary, he expanded the city’s Channel 18 from mainly meeting coverage to city-produced TV features and worked to rebrand the city and attract economic development. He also expanded news offerings on the city’s website.
“When you put out your own message, you put the message you want to put out,” he said. “You need an independent voice. My role was not to be that independent voice. My role was to advocate for the city…. Social media has given people a megaphone to advocate for themselves.”
The city has begun advertising his position. The salary will range from $75,000 to $118,ooo.
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