Rosendo Prieto, ex-Surfside building official who signed off on condo, placed on leave

SURFSIDE, Fla. — The former Surfside building official who three years ago told residents at the South Florida condominium that collapsed last week that the structure appeared to be “in very good shape” was placed on leave from his current job, city officials said.

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The city of Doral said Tuesday in a statement that Rosendo “Ross” Prieto is taking a leave from C.A.P. Government Inc., a firm that provides building department services to government clients. Prieto, who left his post in Surfside last November, was assigned in May by C.A.P. to work for Doral, the Miami Herald reported.

“On June 28, 2021, C.A.P. Government, Inc. notified the City of Doral that Mr. Prieto was on a leave of absence and assigned another employee to assist the City of Doral Building Department on a temporary basis,” Doral spokesperson Maggie Santos said.

Edie Ousley, a spokesperson for C.A.P., confirmed to the Herald that Prieto was taking a leave of absence. She declined to say whether the move was voluntary.

Prieto, 54, did not respond to requests for comment, The Wall Street Journal and Herald reported.

Prieto was the top Surfside building official when the 40-year recertification inspection process was being done at the Champlain Towers South building in November 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported. Prieto served as the building official in Surfside for about seven years, the newspaper reported.

Doral has contracted with C.A.P. Government, Inc. for building department services since 2018, according to the Herald.

A month after engineer Frank Morabito noted there was “major structural damage” at Champlain Towers South, Prieto attended a condominium association meeting and told the board he had reviewed the report. He told association members that he believed the building was in good shape, according to minutes from the meeting obtained by the Herald.

Prieto told the Herald on Saturday that he did not recall receiving the report and did not recall any major concerns with the building, adding: “If there had been, they would have been addressed right away.”

A day later after the November 2018 meeting, Prieto told the town manager of Surfside he thought the meeting was a success and credited Champlain Towers with getting a good early start on the recertification process, according to The Associated Press.

“The response was very positive from everyone in the room,” Prieto wrote in the email, also released by town officials. “All the main concerns over their forty-year recertification process were addressed.”