The former Surfside, Fla. top building official — who said in 2018 that the condo that partially collapsed last week was structurally sound — has been put on leave from his current job as a government contractor after a damning engineering report came to light.
The city of Doral, Fla. said Rosendo Prieto is taking a leave from CAP Government Inc, which provides building department services to governments, according to The Miami Herald.
The contractor confirmed Prieto’s leave Tuesday, and did not specify if it was voluntary, the newspaper reported.
A private engineer reportedly put Prieto on notice that a leaky pool above the Champlain Towers South’s garage contributed to “major structural damage” three years ago.
It’s unclear if the “abundant cracking” in the building’s early 40-year inspection contributed to last week’s catastrophe, which left 12 people confirmed dead and 149 missing Tuesday night.
“I don’t know anything about it. That’s 2018,” Prieto told the Herald when contacted for comment Saturday, claiming he was unaware Surfside received the engineering report — which reportedly included estimates for proposed repairs to the structure. “If there had been [any concerns], they would have been addressed right away,” the ex-official told the paper.
A review of the minutes of a condo association meeting by the newspaper found that Prieto told the board he had indeed reviewed the troubling report by engineer Frank Morabito.
Surfside records also show that a condo board member sent the report to Prieto before the 2018 meeting and the two met in his office to discuss the matter, according to the article.
“Thank you so much for having us in your office. We appreciate your time a lot. We would like to invite you to our board meeting on [Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018] at 7:30 to explain the facts of the 40-year inspection,” Mara Chouela reportedly wrote.
The day after the meeting, Prieto wrote a town official and said “the response was very positive from everyone in the room,” adding he was impressed with the condo’s efforts to complete the building’s required 40-year recertification early, according to the article.
Prieto, who goes by “Ross,” reportedly left his job in Surfside last fall.
In 1997, he worked as the assistant director of building and zoning in Miami Shores when a kennel club collapsed on workers during a demolition project, killing two and injuring three others, the outlet reported.
“Everything was going according to plan,” Prieto reportedly said at the time. “From what I hear, this is just a construction accident. Accidents can happen.”
There was no evidence Prieto or local officials were responsible for that incident, the Herald found.