Miami Beach officials say they erroneously placed developer Rishi Kapoor on a list of people prohibited from making campaign contributions in last year’s city election.
Three entities managed by Kapoor donated a total of $3,000 to the re-election campaign of Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, even though Kapoor’s name appeared on the city’s list of “Prohibited Campaign Contributors.”
After The Real Deal reported the alleged prohibited donations, Kapoor and his team reached out to the Miami Beach City Attorney’s Office to find out why his name was on the list, Kapoor told TRD.
“It was really upsetting,” Kapoor said. “I take pride in following the law. The article made it seem that our integrity and our process is inappropriate. The city got the facts wrong.”
In a Dec. 20 email response, a Miami Beach spokesperson confirmed that Kapoor and his company, Urbin Miami Beach Partners, should not have been included on the prohibited donors list for last year’s election.
“I believe staff may have inadvertently added them (and others) in an abundance of caution, without realizing that the term ‘real estate developer’ was limited to specified matters only,” the spokesperson wrote. “He was erroneously placed on the list.”
Under city law, developers that are negotiating for a development agreement with the city are barred from making contributions to mayoral and city commission candidates. Developers seeking a zoning change or land use map change are also prohibited from donating to campaigns for elected office in Miami Beach.
Every election cycle, the city releases and updates the list with the names of companies and individuals that cannot give to candidates’ campaigns. In addition to Kapoor and Urbin Miami Beach Partners, the city erroneously included Atlantic Pacific Communities, a commercial real estate and property management firm headed by CEO Howard Cohen. Six entities controlled by Atlantic Pacific each gave Gelber’s campaign the $1,000 maximum.
In 2019, Atlantic Pacific was working on a deal with Miami Beach to lease and develop the city-owned site of the Barclay Plaza Hotel near the Miami Beach Convention Center, but the company withdrew its proposal. In Kapoor’s case, his company is redeveloping a commercial property at 1260 Washington Avenue into a six-story mixed-use project. Kapoor told TRD that he obtained final approvals for Urbin Miami Beach roughly a year before he contributed to Gelber’s re-election campaign.
“It was explained to me that a junior level staffer accidentally included a bunch of developers on the list which was not checked and verified,” Kapoor said. “The city attorney’s office acknowledged the mistake.”
The Miami Beach spokesperson said after Kapoor and his team brought the mistake to their attention, the city clerk’s office updated the list. “A majority of the persons on the list in November have been removed for the same reason,” the spokesperson wrote. “Mr. Kapoor and his affiliated entities do not fall within the definition of ‘real estate developer’ under the City Code because at no time was he seeking a development agreement or a change of zoning map designation or change to the city’s future land use map.”
Prior to making any political contribution, Kapoor said he makes sure that there are no prohibitions or consequences for doing so. “We did the same thing this time by checking with Mayor Gelber’s campaign and Michael Larkin, the attorney representing [Urbin],” Kapoor said. “They said there was no consequence, and that is why we were so surprised to be on the list.”