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Official Who Said Champlain Towers Was Sound Is On A Leave Of Absence

Crews work in the rubble of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla.
Gerald Herbert
Crews work in the rubble of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla.

Updated June 29, 2021 at 6:46 PM ET

The former top building official who assured residents of the Champlain Towers South condominium that it was in "very good shape," two years before the 12-story building collapsed, is on a leave of absence from his current job.

Rosendo Prieto examined the 40-year recertification inspection of the Surfside, Fla., condo as recently as November 2018.

About a year later he left the city of Surfside and was employed by C.A.P. Government Inc., a private firm that provides outsourced building assistance to municipal governments, and was assigned to work in the city of Doral, where he appeared to be employed until news about his involvement in the towers certification became public.

The Champlain Towers building partially collapsed early Thursday morning. As of Tuesday, 12 people are confirmed dead and over 149 others are missing. Officials say search and rescue crews will continue to comb through the rubble despite not detecting any signs of life.

On Tuesday, Edie Ousley, a spokeswoman for C.A.P. Government Inc., confirmed to NPR that Prieto "is on a leave of absence" but could not provide details, saying it is a human resources issue.

Prieto did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

He reviewed the 2018 engineering report that found widespread problems threatening the structural integrity of the tower, which required extensive repairs "in the near future."

As NPR reported exclusivelyon Sunday, Prieto attended a board meeting of the condominium's association a few weeks after that report and told condo residents their building appeared to be "in very good shape."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.