Crisis management firm that boasts it can ‘fix the impossible’ has been hired by Miami condominium board of directors as questions mount over disaster and death toll reached 16.
Levick, who is based in Washington DC, has been appointed to handle the wave of media inquiries sent to the Champlain Towers South Condo Association following last Thursday’s collapse. The company’s vice president, Maxwell Marucci, was tasked with dealing with the disaster.
He told the Miami Herald: “The Champlain Towers South Condo Association Board of Directors has retained the services of LEVICK, a crisis communications firm with deep experience in these issues, to assist them during this very difficult time.
“LEVICK has handled the hundreds of inquiries from inbound media around the world interested in the latest breaking news on this unprecedented tragedy. “
“By taking on the important communications responsibilities of keeping the media constantly informed, it has lightened a burden on the members of the volunteer association’s board of directors – who themselves mourn the loss of loved ones, friends and family. neighbors – so that they can concentrate on the essential work of assisting all search and rescue methods involved in this tragedy.
The disaster toll reached 18 dead on Wednesday, and 145 people are still missing. Three class actions have been filed so far, more will almost certainly follow.
Speaking in the wake of the lawsuits, Marucci said: “The board is not made up of engineers or building experts,” Marcucci told Insider. “They hired experts and they trusted experts, and at no point did the experts indicate that there was an imminent threat.”
Levick, a Washington, DC-based company run by CEO Richard Levick, has previously represented clients linked to crises such as the sexual abuse allegations by an anonymous Catholic Church order, the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the 2000 Florida Election Recount.
Marucci also told the Herald that the board was made up entirely of volunteers who also owned units – one of whom is now one of 147 missing residents.
Miami condominium board of directors hired crisis management firm named Levick who boasts they can ‘fix the impossible’
The Washington, DC firm has previously represented clients implicated in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the 2000 Florida election recount.
Maxwell Marcucci, vice president of Levick, has been assigned to the case and will act as spokesperson for the condominium association
Levick previously employed famed Washington lawyer and spinmeister Lanny Davis, who recently represented former President Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen and served as special advisor to President Bill Clinton.
A major former client included China Telecom, which paid the company more than $ 230,000 for work in 2019 and 2020. Jho Low, the Malaysian businessman accused of stealing more than $ 4 billion from the Malaysian development fund in the 1MDB scandal, paid the company more than $ 50,000.
Another client was Citgo, a US-based subsidiary of Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA, which paid Levick more than $ 1 million for work in 2019 to combat the negative image emanating from them. Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro regimes.
The lawsuits against the board allege they were based on evidence of damage to the condo and could have prevented its collapse. In October 2018, Frank Morabito, an engineer, warned the board of directors and building manager Rosendo Prieto of “major structural damage” to the Champlain Towers South building, which he said would cost around $ 9 million. to fix. Morabito had been commissioned by the residents’ association to examine the building, ahead of its 40-year structural overhaul, scheduled for 2021.
Morabito’s report, released by Surfside officials on Friday, included images of what he wrote as “profuse cracks” and collapsing into the 12-story building’s underground parking lot.
Morabito also spoke on Monday and released a statement saying he recommended the changes three years ago to the Condominium Association – a board of seven volunteers, five of whom lived in the building and one of whom is still missing in action.
But in November 2018, Prieto told residents he looked at Morabito’s report and found little concern. On Tuesday, Prieto was put on leave from his position as Interim Building Manager for CAP Government Inc, where he started working in May of this year. He worked to provide building department services to government clients in Doral.
Lawsuits against the board of directors allege they were based on evidence of damage to the condo and could have prevented its collapse
Search and rescue have searched for survivors of Thursday’s condo collapse in Surfside, Miami. As of Wednesday evening, 16 people were confirmed dead and 150 people are still missing.
In October 2018, Frank Morabito, an engineer, warned the board of directors and building manager Rosendo Prieto of “major structural damage”
Morabito’s report, released by Surfside officials on Friday, included footage of what he wrote as “heavy cracks” and collapsing into the 12-story building’s underground parking lot.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said she would take the case to grand jurors
The board had been mulling over the findings of Morabito’s report for about two years before sending a letter to residents in April letting them know the damage was “considerably worse” and “accelerating.”
In that letter, she said that they were still trying to finalize a loan from Valley Bank to pay for the repairs (they first tried to get a loan from Banco Popular but the deal failed) and that the cost total was over $ 16 million and the board only had $ 707,000 in cash reserves, leaving them with a bill of around $ 15 million.
The owners of the 136 units in the building would be responsible for repaying it and each had to pay a different amount depending on the size of their unit.
On Tuesday, three class actions were filed against the condominium board, accusing them of the collapse. The first came less than a day after the collapse and it asked for $ 5 million in damages. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said she would take the case to grand jurors.
If negligence is a factor, those responsible could face criminal charges, such as the murder and third degree manslaughter charges laid in the accidental crash of the ValuJet 592 in the Everglades in 1996, which resulted in killed 110 people.
“In the field of crisis communications, you would expect to have clients who find themselves in difficult situations, grappling with serious problems, so it’s no surprise that a public relations firm takes them on board. charge, ”Evan Nierman, CEO of Red Banyan, a South Florida-based crisis communications company, told the Miami Herald.
“Businesses have a choice to make when potential customers arrive, and they need to determine whether or not they will accept those customers,” Nierman said. “It is very easy from the outside to judge whether or not a business should say yes or no, when nine times out of ten the facts are not really known and certainly not fully explored.”
“I don’t think Levick’s hiring has a negative implication for” the condominium association, “Nierman added. “That means they’re going to get some serious crisis communication advice.”
The outlet also spoke with Ronn Torossian, CEO of New York-based public relations firm 5WPR, which also has an office in Miami, who said the surviving members of the condominium board are suffering them. even trauma, which adds to the difficulty of dealing with the onslaught of attention.
“All the media in the world are looking for a comment. It gives you a focal point of someone who knows how to handle those calls, ”Torossian said. “It’s a full-time job for several people for a while. “