Miami Mayor Francis Suarez earns $10K/month from developer

Rishi Kapoor’s Urbin brand hired him for a consulting gig

Rishi Kapoor and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez

Rishi Kapoor and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (Location Ventures, Getty)

“How can I help?” 

That’s Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s motto for firms and entrepreneurs doing business in the Magic City.

It appears that Location Ventures CEO Rishi Kapoor took that offer of assistance to heart, and compensated Suarez thousands of dollars a month for it.

Urbin, a co-living and co-working division of Kapoor’s Location Ventures, paid Suarez a monthly $10,000 consulting fee, according to a recently filed lawsuit and an affirmative defense in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. 

In an emailed statement, Kapoor said Urbin retained Suarez because his company “appreciated [the mayor’s] innovative and progressive mindset and approach to affordability, sustainability, and resiliency.”

“As an advisor, Mr. Suarez has consulted for Urbin by providing feedback on programming and the greater mission of the brand to bring new housing opportunities to urban markets,” Kapoor said. “Not just in Miami-Dade County, but beyond.”

The lawsuit filed last week in Miami-Dade Circuit Court by former Location Ventures CFO Greg Brooks against the company alleges Suarez was paid for “unknown services.” The mayor’s side gig with Urbin came without a written agreement or invoices, the complaint states. 

Brooks is suing Kapoor’s firm to collect $80,000 in bonuses Location Ventures allegedly owes him for securing financing for two real estate projects. The ex-CFO alleges that Kapoor fired him after he became aware of financial improprieties taking place at Location Ventures and refused to participate in them. 

For instance, Kapoor allegedly collected more than $3 million in unauthorized fees that violated operating agreements for the company’s development projects, the lawsuit states. In addition to the Suarez’s payments, Brooks also questioned other allegedly unexplained company expenditures, such as a McLaren sports car for Kapoor, the lawsuit states.

Brooks’ attorney Brian Pollack did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Brian Goodkind, an attorney representing Location Ventures, said that the former executive is looking to squeeze his client by making exaggerated allegations. 

“The allegations, in my opinion, are designed to enhance the pressure that we are supposed to feel from this litigation,” Goodkind said. “[Brooks] was grossly mistaken, and his version of the facts is not accurate.” 

In an answer and affirmative defense, Location Ventures claimed that Urbin did have a written agreement with Suarez that was “reviewed and approved by the city attorney.” The court filing also says the agreement specifically states that Suarez may have to recuse himself or resign from his consultancy “should there be any conflicts of interest.” 

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Location Ventures’ answer states that Kapoor paid for the McLaren with his own money, and that he lawfully collected development fees. 

In an email exchange with The Real Deal, Miami City Attorney Victoria Mendez said she was unaware of the arrangement, and that her office did not have a copy of the agreement between Location Ventures and Suarez.

“Our office has generally opined that the mayor may have outside income/employment,” Mendez wrote. “If any person that employs the mayor has an item on the [city] commission agenda that would require action by the mayor, the mayor is required to recuse himself.”

Her office found no instance in which Location Ventures or Urbin had an issue before the city commission that required Suarez to recuse himself, Mendez wrote. 

Suarez did not respond to a text message seeking comment. His spokesperson, Soledad Cedro, provided a statement that acknowledged Suarez has a “written agreement with Urbin for work unrelated to any city of Miami business,” and that “details of said agreement will be properly disclosed as required by law.”

Florida law requires all elected officials to file annual statements of financial interests in which they must list their sources of income. Suarez, who earns a $97,000 annual salary as mayor and a $33,000 expense stipend from the city, last filed a financial disclosure for 2021 that does not list Location Ventures or Urbin as income sources. 

Suarez, who is mulling a run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has been paid at least $80,000 from August 2022 through March, the months Brooks worked at Location Ventures, the Miami Herald reported. 

Under Florida’s code of ethics, Suarez is required to disclose his income from Urbin for the months he was paid last year in his 2022 statement of financial interest, said Caroline Klancke, executive director of the Florida Ethics Institute. Elected officials have a July 1 deadline to file that form. Any income for this year would have to be listed in Suarez’s financial disclosure statement next year, Lancke added.

“Generally, high profile individuals like [Suarez] would file before July 1,” Klancke told TRD. “That is the transparency requirement under state ethics law.” 

Still, the public is entitled to know all the details about Suarez’s consulting gig, including how and why Location Ventures decided to hire him, said Robert Jarvis, a Nova Southeastern University ethics law professor. 

“The public has a right to know if their mayor has been ethically compromised,” Jarvis said. “This is such a significant source of income that [he has] to disclose everything. As a public servant, I don’t believe he has any privacy rights, and neither does the company.”

Kapoor should also have to explain why he would specifically hire Suarez, the sitting mayor of a city where Location Ventures has at least one active development, Jarvis said. Location Ventures is currently developing Urbin Coconut Grove, a co-living mixed-use project. 

“There are literally thousands of people in the private sector who presumably could do whatever Suarez is doing,” Jarvis said. “It’s very suspicious on its face. You don’t hire the mayor for his good looks. You hired him because he is the mayor, and you thought it would give you some sort of juice or insider status.”