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County investigators are making inquiries into a wide array of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s private business relationships, according to new records that highlight the broad scope of an ongoing probe into the mayor’s work outside City Hall.
The existence of the investigation was first confirmed last May by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle. She told reporters at the time that her office was working with the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust to investigate the mayor’s consulting agreement with local developer Rishi Kapoor, who was secretly paying Suarez $10,000 per month at the same time the mayor’s office was intervening to help Kapoor overcome a permitting issue delaying his multi-million dollar Coconut Grove development.
Now, a public records request filed this month with the city indicates that investigators are casting a much wider net than previously known, and looking into at least 11 of Suarez’s other side jobs. Some of those jobs were first made public in a Miami Herald investigation. Others were revealed in a subsequent federal financial disclosure filed in the final days of Suarez’s short-lived bid for president.
Those jobs have helped Suarez become a multi-millionaire during his tenure as mayor.
On Jan. 12, ethics investigator Karl Ross requested copies of all of the mayor’s emails referencing a list of 14 keywords related to Suarez’s consulting agreements with two financial advising firms run by associates of a Russian oligarch, a handful of technology companies, a real estate company and City National Bank, which issued the mortgage for Suarez’s residence.
Ross also asked for emails containing the same keywords sent to or from the mayor’s former director of constituent affairs, Lazaro Quintero, who was responsible for fielding questions, complaints and requests from city residents and businesses.
Quintero was the staffer who made a call to the zoning department on Rishi Kapoor’s behalf, paving the way for the developer to receive a zoning waiver and, ultimately, a building permit in late 2022. Ross’ request for Quintero’s emails suggests investigators might now be looking for similar communications on behalf of Suarez’s other private employers.
Stephanie Severino, Suarez’s communications director, said in a statement that the part-time mayor has fulfilled his “public responsibilities while also continuing his private employment, all within the bounds of the law and ethics.”
“Mayor Suarez values the work of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and has always followed its recommendations, just as he has complied with Florida law in every respect as mayor,” Severino said. “He will continue to do so throughout his public service to the people of the City of Miami.”
Jose Arrojo, executive director of the ethics commission, said Friday that state and local laws prohibit him from commenting on the matter. The expansive records request can be viewed in a public database on the city’s website.
Ross, who filed the request, is known for spearheading a recent investigation that led to the bribery and money-laundering arrest of Miami Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla, who was voted out of office shortly after he was charged. His trial is upcoming.
In 2022, city records show Ross asked for Díaz de la Portilla’s emails with individuals and companies later revealed to be at the center of the public corruption case Ross built against the commissioner in conjunction with the Broward County State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That was Ross’ only other request for city emails before the one he filed regarding the mayor’s outside work this month, the city records portal shows.
Díaz de la Portilla has denied wrongdoing.
In addition to the ongoing joint investigation into his outside work, Suarez faces a state ethics investigation into whether he illegally took expensive gifts from city lobbyists and a federal inquiry regarding his work for Kapoor.
In addition to asking for emails associated with nearly all employers listed on Suarez’s financial disclosure, the records request asked for emails discussing one additional business: Citadel, the giant hedge fund owned by Florida’s wealthiest individual, Ken Griffin, who recently moved the business to Miami.
“Neither Citadel nor Ken Griffin has ever employed Mayor Suarez,” Citadel spokesperson Zia Ahmed told the Herald, “and we have not been contacted by the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission.”
City National Bank of Florida, where federal disclosures show Suarez made between $50,000 and $100,000 as a consultant between Jan. 1, 2022, and Aug. 23, 2023, was the only Suarez employer referenced in the records request to immediately respond to the Herald’s request for comment about the widening investigation.
The bank’s spokesperson told the Herald that City National hired Suarez as a strategic advisor in 2022 “because he was uniquely qualified to provide insight on Miami’s accelerated trajectory as a global city, and into the dynamics shaping our local business community.”
“As one of the largest banks based in Florida and a pillar of the South Florida economy dating back more than 75 years, City National Bank routinely enlists advisers and consultants to share their market knowledge and expertise with our board and executive team,” the spokesperson said.
According to City National’s statement, Suarez and the bank came to the mutual decision to end their business relationship at the end of June, shortly after Suarez filed to run for president. City National Bank issued the mortgage on Suarez’s home, according to his federal disclosure. The bank’s statement did not address whether the institution had been contacted by any investigators in conjunction with the ongoing investigation into Suarez.