Rishi Kapoor, who has a financial relationship with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, also rents from Vince Lago
Developer Rishi Kapoor paid tens of thousands in rent for a sales center showroom. He also hired Miami Mayor Francis Saurez and his consultancy gig for his urban village venture and allegedly paid $170,000.
Last summer, the developer leased a former karate studio on Ponce de Leon Blvd from a group of investors, including Vince Lago. Kapoorhas been renting the space since then with a proposed plan to build a retail showroom for a condo project across.
Here’s why this news is both dicey and a matter of conflict of interest involving Mayor Francis Suarez.
Landlord-tenet relationship between Lago and Kapoor
Gables Mayor disclosed his landlord-tenant relationship with Kapoor stating that he didn’t vote on the project to avoid a conflict of interest. However, recent financial disclosures, mortgage documents, and campaign reports show ties and activities between the developer’s firm, Location Ventures, and the mayor.
According to new details following Herald’s probing, Kapoor was also contracting Miami Mayor Francis Saurez around the same time he was paying rent to Lago.
Besides his $45,000 salary as a mayor, Lago provides services as a licensed real estate agent, which he calls his primary income source. He emphasized that he and his partners rented the empty studio to Location Venture’s developer after vetting all potential tenants. They decided to lease their newly purchased property to Mr. Kapoor. Though Kapoor has moved to the retail property, it still sits empty.
According to Location Ventures’ attorney Brian Goodkind, the firm sought this storefront location because it’s closest to their other proposed condo project on 1505 Ponce de Leon Blvd. He further added that it’s common for developers to look for a retail space that’s closer to their planned condo project.
Kapoor pays a monthly $12,410 rent to Gables Mayor besides the first $15,600 payment made last year in June.
Hiring Miami Mayor for consultancy
Rishi Kapoor paid a $10,000 monthly consulting fee to Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, whose motto for entrepreneurs and firms is “How Can I Help?”. The former CFO of Location Ventures, Greg Brooks, filed a lawsuit against Kapoor and his firm for paying the mayor for unknown services. There are invoices and written agreements between Francis Suarez and the firm, according to the complaint.
In their defense, Location Ventures emphasized that they do have a written agreement with the mayor, which was approved and reviewed by the city attorney. However, Miami City Attorney Victoria Mendez shared her unawareness of the matter in an email correspondence. She said that her office hadn’t received any copy of such an agreement.
Under FL Law, all officials are required to disclose their sources of income. Francis Suarez, who disclosed his financial reports in 2021, didn’t list his income from Location Ventures.
Matter of ethics and conflict of interest
Lago disclosed his political connections with the developer. Kapoor’s firm donated $10,000 to Lago’s election campaign last year. Lago also attended promotional events of Location Ventures while he was connected to the brokerage credited for the sale of the Ponce property.
Lago also has close ties with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who again has financial ties with Rishi Kapoor. Lago called Francis Suarez last year to resolve Kapoor’s permitting issues relating to another Coconut Grove project where he provided his consultancy services.
However, both Kapoor and Francis Suarez have denied that the latter’s consultancy gig had anything to do with his City Hall project. According to Kapoor, Suarez only offered his feedback on the project programming and new opportunities.
The law professor of Nova Southeastern University, Bob Jarvis, called this a matter of ethics. As an ethics major, he pressed on the fact that establishing such financial relationships that can personally benefit a mayor raises a conflict of interest.
He said that if politicians have more information on such deals than the public, they shouldn’t line their own pockets. Even if it’s not illegal or wrong, the optics of such deals look dicey for a public servant.
Likewise, Executive Director of FL Ethics Institute Caroline Klancke also reiterated that the public has the right to know the details of high-profile individuals and their income streams. They don’t have the right to privacy, nor does their company.
Kapoor hiring Miami and Gables mayor makes it suspicious because it shows that the developer hired them to have an edge and an insider status.