There is increased scrutiny on a building official who concluded the Surfside condo was sound years before it came down, and now, other projects tied to that official are under review.
Vice Mayor Pete Cabrera wants a special meeting to review any project Ross Prieto was involved with in the City of Doral. Prieto used to lead Surfside’s building department.
In October 2018, an engineer noticed serious issues with the Champlain Towers South building and documented problems with cracks and distressed concrete. Condo board minutes showed Prieto looked over that report and gave the impression to the board that “it appears the building is in very good shape.”
Fast forward to April. The condo president wrote a letter titled “State of the Building” where she listed the reasons why the building needed more than $16 million worth of repairs.
The condo president wrote, in part, “When you can visually see the concrete spalling (cracking), that means that the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface” and “A lot of this work could have been done or planned for in years gone by, but this is where we are now.”
Then, on June 24, at 1:30 a.m., part of that building collapsed, killing more than 30 people. Rescue crews have not found more than 100 people who remain missing. Several agencies are looking into what caused the building to fall, including the condo board.
“The board is already in the process of hiring an engineer to also try to figure out what happened, and they will be evaluating who is responsible,” said condo board attorney Donna Berger.
Prieto has not worked for the town of Surfside since 2020. Doral officials had hired him through a consultant for work in their city.
“He was here a while and did review plans and was involved, so my concern is just to make sure that nothing– there was no oversight on the plans he reviewed, that everything is safe,” Cabrera said.
Cabrera said in light of the tragedy in Surfside, they do not want to second guess themselves.
“I don’t know of anyone else who has expressed concerns. I have, and I am concerned,” Cabrera said. “I’m not necessarily believing there’s anything wrong, but I want to be safe and not sorry later on.”
7News called Prieto’s number to get his side of the story. He did not pick up the phone. 7Investigates reported Prieto was working for the city of Miami Shores back in 1997, when a building collapsed there, killing two people.
In that incident, we learned a contractor hired an unlicensed contractor who gutted the inside of the building. Patrick Fraser questioned him about that. When asked if it means they can hire unlicensed subcontractors to do demolition work, he said, “No, they can’t.”
Officials have not said whether the special meeting will happen. Prieto’s replacement begins July 16.