Shakeup at Miami Lakes Building Department

Government By Linda Trischitta and David Snelling Thursday, July 1, 2021

Leadership in the Town of Miami Lakes Building Department will be shared by two staffers promoted to the positions in June after the top two officials resigned.

Daniel Angel is the
new director of the building department, and will oversee administration
and operations, including building, zoning and code enforcement, Town Manager Edward Pidermann said in a June 17th email to the town council and staff.

Angel was formerly
the director of parks and recreation. A town employee since 2007, he has a bachelor’s degree in public administration and has experience in code enforcement, Pidermann said.

Angel Rivas is the new building official.

He will have final authority on building code approvals, plan reviews and inspections.

Rivas was formerly the town’s chief building inspector.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering; is a general and roofing contractor; a certified building official and has worked for the town since 2018.

“This is a model used in many South Florida governments and we believe that this will be the best structure for our town moving forward,” Pidermann said.

Daniel Angel earns $92,700 and Angel Rivas’ salary is $100,110.

Pidermann also announced a third promotion: Jeremy Bajdaun, from special projects manager in the parks and recreation department to its director.

Bajdaun, whose degree is in sports management, has worked for the town since 2015. He will lead the department as plans for development of Miami Lakes Optimist Park move forward.

The June 11th resignations of Building Official Mike Mesa and Building Department Manager Lourdes Rodriguez followed the March 9th creation of an Ad Hoc Committee to review department “processes and workflow systems” and make recommendations on how it can improve, as proposed by Councilman Jeffrey Rodriguez.

Mayor Manny Cid and a majority of the council approved the new committee of building trade professionals to study the building department; Vice Mayor Luis Collazo and Councilwoman Marilyn Ruano opposed it.

Ruano said then that based on her review of residents’ complaints, she found the department acted correctly in most cases.

Collazo said having
the committee oversee the department was “going to overly politicize the issue” and that the committee would undermine the authority of both Pidermann and Mesa.

“Our building official is in a tough spot,” Collazo said then. “Because 90% of the calls they’re getting, they’re just trying to en- force the code that we’ve kind of created for them.”

After participating in two Ad Hoc Committee meetings, Mesa and Rodriguez resigned.

Pidermann said the pair were “instrumental in leading the best building department in South Florida. The example they set for staff was second to none.”

Mesa said in his resignation letter that he was going to work for another municipality.

Rodriguez had been a town employee since 2011 and said her decision to leave “was not an easy one to make but current circumstances have swayed me.”

Neither Mesa nor Rodriguez could be reached for comment after they gave notice to Pidermann.

During a special call meeting of the town council on June 21st, when Cid and Councilmembers Joshua Dieguez and Tony Fernandez were absent, Councilman Jeffrey Rodriguez proposed postponing Ad Hoc Committee meetings for two months until the new building department leaders are settled in.

Ruano didn’t want to extend the committee’s timeline; it is scheduled to file a report to the elected officials at the council’s August 10th meeting.

“There have been a
lot of moves that we are unhappy with,” Ruano said. “I am particularly unhappy with everything that has transpired in the building department.

“I don’t see the need for the committee to be around any longer,” Ruano said. “In my opinion, it has created enough damage already.”

Ruano said, “... this whole process” has “.... taken a strain on the department as a whole.”

Collazo said he agreed with Ruano.

“We’ve lost a wealth of knowledge from this process,” Collazo said. “I’m not going to say it’s based on the committee or the recommendations. I just know it’s something that has taken a toll on our community.

“I think the [building] department will appreciate what is going to come forward,” Collazo said. “I just don’t want to risk more shakeups from this process.”

Collazo suggested taking the committee’s recommendations, letting Rivas begin leading the department and if issues need to be revisited, that could happen.

Rodriguez said the Ad Hoc Committee wasn’t to blame for the departures of Mesa and Rodriguez.

“Don’t sit here and assume that these people resigned because of the committee,” Rodriguez said. “They never said that. They were involved in the process.

“We made sure that they were involved in the process,” he said. “They gave recommendations.

“So for you guys to sit here and say this committee caused all this drama, it didn’t,” Rodriguez said. “If they resigned it was because of their choice. It had nothing to do with the committee.”

Collazo said he retracted his comments and agreed that Mesa and Rodriguez “never really stated on the record why they resigned.”

Councilman Carlos Alvarez voted in favor
 of Rodriguez’s motion to pause committee meetings for two months but it ended in a tie and failed.

The Ad Hoc Committee members are: Eric Trillas and Luis Senra, who are both engineers; Carlos Fernandez Guzman, a banker; Ricardo Gonzalez, a fire plans examiner and German Cure, a town employee who is an engineer and oversees internet technology and strategic planning.

The committee’s meetings may be attended in person at town hall or watched live on video on the town’s website.

They are scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. on July 8th, July 22nd and July 29th.

Photo of town hall courtesy of the Town of Miami Lakes.

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