Top officials resign from Miami Lakes Building Department

Featured By Linda Trischitta and David L. Snelling Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Two leaders of the Town of Miami Lakes building department -- Building Official Mike Mesa and Building Department Manager Lourdes Rodriguez -- resigned their positions on June 11th.

Town Manager Ed Pidermann said “It is with great disappointment and sadness” when he announced the pending departures in an email to staff on Monday.

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.”

Pidermann named the Villages of Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay as two municipalities that have consulted with Miami Lakes’ building department about how to do things.

In his resignation letter, Mesa wrote that he received an offer from another municipality and his last day will be June 25th. Pidermann hired him in 2020, for an annual salary of $139,049.

Rodriguez was less specific. On the job since 2011, she earned $95,373.  She said her final day working for the town will be July 1st.

“This was not an easy decision to make but current circumstances have swayed me,” she wrote.

Neither Mesa nor Rodriguez could be reached for comment on Tuesday about their departures; both said in their letters that their decisions were not easy ones.

Vice Mayor Luis Collazo said he wished Mesa and Rodriguez well in their new endeavors.

"It's a great loss with the both of them leaving, especially for Lourdes who is not only an employee but a resident who has been serving the community for many years," Collazo said. "Mike Mesa has the history and knowledge of running the best building department in the county. They will be missed in the Town of Miami Lakes."

It is unknown whether an extra layer of oversight set up by the council pushed the building professionals out of Town Hall.

During a March 9th council meeting that stretched past midnight, members approved the formation of an ad hoc committee of engineers, architects and contractors.

The committee was tasked with spending three months to “review the processes and workflow systems of the [building] department,” and develop recommendations for the council, according to a memo by Councilman Jeffrey Rodriguez.

The 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 of Miami Lakes employee who is an engineer and oversees internet technology and strategic planning.

The committee has held three meetings, has planned four more and expects to file a report to the town on July 29th

Collazo and Councilwoman Marilyn Ruano voted March 9th against forming the committee.

Ruano said residents’ calls to her about the building department were often unfounded.

“Most of the complaints that I receive are regarding the building department because it’s the department that deals with the majority of the residents on a daily basis,” she said. “To be honest, most of the time it’s the resident’s fault for not starting the process properly or for doing something they’re not supposed to do.  I’ve seen the building department go out of their way to bring them into compliance or walk them through compliance.”

Collazo said putting this type of oversight in place 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. “Because 90% of the calls they’re getting, they’re just trying to enforce the code that we’ve kind of created for them.”

Rodriguez said he served on the Planning and Zoning Board before he became a councilman in 2018.

“I saw issues back then and it’s sort of why I ran, because I ran into issues in the building department, in the permitting process, in the variance process that I thought we could improve upon,” Rodriguez said. “I’m still seeing those same issues four years later.”

He said it would be up to Pidermann to implement any of the committee’s recommendations.

On Wednesday, the councilman said in reaction to news of the officials' resignations, "I haven't worked with Mike Mesa for long, but I have a long-standing relationship with Lourdes Rodriguez," Rodriguez said. "I speak highly of her as a person and a hard worker who went the distance to help residents. She was absolutely fantastic. We are sad to see her go."

Rodriguez said he hopes Mesa and Rodriguez's replacements will keep the building department moving forward.

Ruano said Wednesday, "We are all upset because it's a big loss. 

"There were really no big issues with the building department," Ruano said. "Customer service issues can be taken care of in-house. Lourdes Rodriguez has been an asset to Miami Lakes for years. It's a shame she's leaving for that reason."

Councilman Joshua Dieguez said Wednesday that though he was "saddened to see them go, I wish both Mike and Lourdes the best in their future endeavors.

"Lourdes in particular has been a pillar of that department and is known to many Miami Lakers as a result of her lengthy service to the town," Dieguez said. "There will be big shoes to fill there. In the meanwhile, I trust Town Manager Edward Pidermann will conduct a thorough search for the right replacements and to the Building Department Ad Hoc Committee concluding its work in the near future.”

Several councilmembers and Pidermann said problems happen when architects or contractors or engineers tell clients the town has not approved plans or processed permits, when instead, the applicants or their contractors were late or incomplete with paperwork and untruthful with their clients, the homeowners. Suggestions from Pidermann and the council included having face-to-face meetings with property owners after two denials to their projects and copying homeowners on all correspondence with the town as plans progress through the department.

Meanwhile, no one had yet been named Tuesday to lead one of the town’s busiest departments.  

Like the councilmembers, Pidermann offered his best wishes to Mesa and Rodriguez.

“I want to wish them both the best of luck in their future professional endeavors and I hope that someday, they can find their way back to the Town of Miami Lakes,” Pidermann wrote to staff about Mesa and Rodriguez. “I will welcome them back with open arms.”

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