Rival Sues Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson for Conflict of Interest Involving HootSuite

The mayor of Vancouver is being sued by a political rival.

The lawsuit is based on an accusation that the city’s mayor, Gregor Robertson, was involved in a conflict of interest in a land deal related to HootSuite, one of Vancouver’s biggest homegrown tech companies.

Quoth The Province:

Cedar Party mayoral candidate Glen Chernen and others filed a petition Friday in B.C. Supreme Court, in connection with a city lease deal to growing Vancouver social media company HootSuite. The petitioners are asking for a judge to boot Robertson from city hall—declaring his office “vacant”—for allegedly failing to disclose a “direct, or indirect” financial interest in the June 2012 lease deal, which placed HootSuite in a building formerly used by Vancouver police.

According to the claim, HootSuite provided “substantial election, campaign and political assistance” to Robertson and Vision Vancouver during the politico’s 2011 election campaign, including helping Robertson’s team host a “town hall … held to popularize Mr. Robertson and his Vision Vancouver party.”

The suit further points out that Robertson and employees of HootSuite shared friendly tweets as early as 2010, including photographs of the politician mingling with employees of the tech startup.

And, as the local newspaper points out, “than seven months after the November 2011 civic election, behind closed doors Vancouver council approved a lease with purchase option deal for HootSuite,” which later became the tech firm’s new, bigger office.

“A reasonably well-informed elector in the City of Vancouver could conclude that Mr. Robertson’s interest as the recipient of substantial assistance from Mr. Holmes/HootSuite as well as their personal relationship could influence Mr. Robertson’s decision to authorize the lease of the city-owned property,” the suit states.

Quoth The Province:

According to the claim, HootSuite’s lease deal included seven months of free rent, a “$700,000 inducement” and “the rent was set at $17 per square foot (which is) much lower than the typical rent for square footage in Vancouver.” The lawsuit also claims that in July 2012 Holmes contacted Robertson’s chief of staff, Mike Magee, through Magee’s private consulting company email address, to “ask a favour of him.” The email referred to having HootSuite’s building added to a city program for tenant improvements.

The city’s mayor issued a statement in response to the claim over the weekend:

“It’s disappointing to see these bizarre claims being made,” said Robertson, who attended Techvibes’ inaugural Tech Fest in Vancouver last year. “As Mayor, I’m very proud of the strong local tech companies that are investing in Vancouver, and City Hall will continue to support the new jobs they are creating in our city’s growing economy.”