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Deerfield Beach Building Official Fired, Accused of Sexually Harassing Resident

A Deerfield Beach woman filed a complaint against a building official who she says tried to use his position as a way to coerce her into an intimate relationship. Last month, that building official, Waguih Messiha, 62, was fired.

According to public records, Nancy Loft, 43, went to the Deerfield Beach Building Department in mid-April to contest what she said were false reports of building code violations by a former tenant upset at being evicted.

In a letter that Loft wrote to the city, dated June 22, 2010, Loft describes being invited into Messiha's private office. Messiha, says Loft, told her that he'd received a report that Loft's mother had built an addition to her NE Sixth Street home without applying for a permit. Loft explained to Messiha that the complaint was motivated by a disgruntled former tenant. She showed him surveys and structural information to prove that no addition had been built.

But the Deerfield Beach building official had another idea for how the complaint could be dealt with, according to Loft.

Mr. Messiha told me in his office that if I went out with him "the problem would go away." Since it was only Mr. Messiha and myself... in his private office at the time, I felt very uncomfortable as Mr. Messiha glanced down at his significant erection and then looked up at me with a smirk and again asked if I would go out with him to make the problem go away.
Loft says she refused to respond to Messiha's proposal. "I was embarrassed and offended," she says in her note.

Instead of going on a date with Messiha, Loft left the office, then returned later with her general contractor, who corroborated her claim of no new construction. The two asked Messiha to show them what evidence he had that there was in fact construction at Loft's mother's home. "Mr. Messiha refused to show us any evidence and instead banged on the table with agitation and walked away from us," writes Loft in her complaint.

Loft filed a criminal complaint with the Broward Sheriff's Office on May 5 in which she also reported Messiha's offer to make the code violation complaint "go away" if she would go on a date with him. She also claimed that since her initial meeting with Messiha, he has called her "repeatedly at all hours of the night" -- including seven times on the day she filed her complaint.

Messiha told a BSO investigator that he had a meeting with Loft at a local restaurant and that she flirted with him, first by asking about his heritage and then by making endearing remarks to him in his native Egyptian. But he denied asking Loft on a date or pursuing a sexual relationship with her. The investigator told Messiha not to have any further contact with Loft and invited Loft to report Messiha if the building official violated that rule. Since the investigator heard no report of Messiha doing so, BSO dismissed the criminal complaint.

But on July 13 -- about three weeks after Loft's letter to Deerfield Beach -- Messiha was fired by City Manager Burgess Hanson. That memo cites a "history of citizen and employee complaints; a mandated anger management course; and progressive disciplinary action." The police report, as well as Loft's letter to the city were included in Messiha's personnel file.

Messiha did not immediately return calls seeking comment as to the reasons for his dismissal.

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Thomas Francis

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