NEW YORK: 5W Public Relations admitted that a senior staffer was involved in misconduct related to an issue involving impersonation on a blog.
Heksher Tzedek, a joint group of the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, claimed that Rabbi Morris Allen of Beth Jacob Congregation in Mendota Heights, MN, was impersonated by a commenter on the blog.
After reports surfaced alleging the comments left under Allen's name on the Failed Messiah blog could be traced back to the IP address of 5W SVP Juda Engelmayer, CEO Ronn Torossian, said, in a statement, it had “instituted internal measures to ensure this cannot happen again.”
“A senior staff member failed to be transparent in dealing with client matters,” Torossian said. “He has taken full responsibility.”
Egelmayer, who Torossian said is still employed by 5W, declined to comment.Torossian would not identify the senior staffer responsible for the misconduct.
5W represents Agriprocessors, a producer of kosher and non-kosher meat products, which recently came under fire for immigration issues.
Torossian also declined to comment on whether someone related to the firm called JTA claiming to be the responsible 5W intern as the publication is alleging, or whether the agency would correct the record on the affected Web sites. Torossian did not respond to a question as to whether the agency is still under contact with Agriprocessors.
Rosenberg claimed July 11 that he found at least 11 comments from the IP address leading to Engelmayer, dating back to February, on his blog.
Upon reading of the incident, Bob Frause, chairman of Public Relations Society of America's board of ethics and professional standards, proposed free ethics training to member and non-member agencies, as well as corporate communications personnel.
If a 5W employee did impersonate Allen, Frause said the agency would have infringed on two PRSA ethical guidelines in place to prevent the disclosure of fraudulent information and deceptive practices.
“If there was erroneous information put forward… I would expect that in the least they would say that the information they have put out is false,” he said.
Heksher Tzedek has consulted with legal counsel on the matter, said Rabbi Michael Siegel, co-chair.
Sam Bayard, assistant director of the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard University, noted that the success of any lawsuit filed against 5W on the matter would depend on whether or not Allen or another victim could make a substantial claim about the unauthorized use of his name or likeness, as well as a number of other factors, such as what state a suit is filed in.