Miami, FL – The building inspector at Riverside Elementary was pulled off the job Friday, after her critical reports slowed a mold and mildew cleanup project by requiring some repairs to be ripped out and redone.
Maria Luisa Rouco said Friday that she was moved so another inspector could sign off on the job in time for the Aug. 26 start of school — whether it’s ready or not.
”They needed to get me out of the way,” she said. Rouco’s boss, Bob Goode, denied that, saying her move is only temporary.
A series of reports by Rouco had described the work at Riverside as hasty and sloppy — a charge construction officials deny. Among the problems cited by Rouco: New insulation covering wallboard that is still contaminated with mold and mildew.
She flunked parts of the project in reports Wednesday and Thursday.
On Thursday, a group of angry Riverside parents — who hadn’t read the inspection reports — met with school officials who promised the Coral Springs school would be made safe before children and teachers return. Many parents say the mold and mildew have made their children sick.
The biggest problems at the Coral Springs school are in the cafeteria and the media center.
The district is also working through the weekend to clean mold and mildew at Country Isles Elementary in Weston, which Rouco also inspects. Goode said Rouco can’t work both jobs during this busy weekend, and she was put on Country Isles because it is closer to her Miami-Dade home, Goode said. She’ll be back at Riverside next week.
Rouco said much of the Riverside work will be finished this weekend.
”It will be too late next week,” she said. Another inspector, Irv Tutunick, will inspect Riverside this weekend. He lives in North Broward and was the inspector for Park Lakes Elementary, under construction in Lauderdale Lakes. That school also has had mold problems. Tutunick hasn’t worked on Riverside’s $2.5 million cleanup.
Rouco is one of the school district’s toughest inspectors, and has rankled school officials, who believe she is overzealous. She and two other inspectors are also suing the school district, claiming they were punished for reporting violations at other schools. That case is ongoing.
Board member Stephanie Kraft, who represents the troubled school, said she was surprised that Rouco was moved off the job.
”`She’s been making trouble for them,” Kraft said. “I don’t know how much of that is warranted, how much of that is not warranted.”
The school district’s building inspectors have been in flux this summer, since chief building official Alan Gilbert resigned in early July after only four months on the job.
Gilbert — whose job was to make sure schools were built safely — said he had trouble working with some of his inspectors, including Rouco. He also said he was pressured by school officials to open projects before they were ready.
One such project was a classroom addition at Norcrest Elementary that opened two weeks before the end of school in May, even though a fire hydrant nearest the classrooms wasn’t hooked up, among other problems.
Goode is now the chief building official since Gilbert resigned.