Lawyers for Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson say a lawsuit alleging a conflict of interest in city dealings with social-media company HootSuite is designed to politically damage the mayor in an election year.
A response to the lawsuit issued Monday said the lawsuit is “replete with misstatements of fact and false innuendo” about the activities of Mr. Robertson, first elected in 2008 and seeking re-election this year.
“[The lawsuit is] so obviously devoid of any legal merit that the only reasonable inference the Court could draw is that this proceeding was commenced for an improper collateral purpose, namely to damage Mayor Robertson politically,” the response says. It notes that petitioner Glen Chernen, of the Cedar party, is a mayoral candidate and two petitioners have declared themselves city council candidates.
In a separate statement, Mr. Robertson said “the case is entirely without merit and the facts speak for themselves.”
The lawsuit alleges Mr. Robertson should not have voted in a closed meeting to lease a city property to HootSuite because he had received benefits from the company and so was biased.
In the fall of 2012, HootSuite got a lease and option to purchase a former Vancouver Police Department building near Main and 8th Avenue that had been declared surplus to city needs. The lawsuit says aspects of the leasing process were not transparent and Mr. Robertson’s personal relationship with HootSuite founder Ryan Holmes could have led the mayor to bias in endorsing the deal.
The lawsuit also says the mayor received benefits from the company, including the opportunity to hold a Twitter town hall at the company’s offices during the 2011 municipal election and a promotional kit from the company, and he attended a party at HootSuite offices. The lawsuit also says he tweeted a supportive message about HootSuite.
Mr. Robertson’s response rebuts the allegations. “Mayors are expected to promote local businesses such as HootSuite. Mayors are expected to attend charity events at which local businesspersons will be present. Mayors are expected to conduct events in conjunction with local businesses in the furtherance of civic business. And candidates for municipal office are expected to campaign at the premises of local businesses.”
It says Mr. Robertson tweeting, on March 9, 2011, in support of HootSuite – referring to a HootSuite software application – is among the “expected” roles of a mayor, backing local business to help attract investment. The response says the mayor did not attend a March. 25, 2011, party at HootSuite’s previous office, but was, rather, at a charity event with a social-media theme that some from the company attended. It says the mayor was given a free HootSuite promotional package, including a T-shirt, “at one of many” industry-business forums he attended.
While the mayor’s staff organized a Twitter town hall at HootSuite’s former office on Nov. 17, 2011, the mayor logged onto his own social-media accounts. A further May, 2013, Twitter town hall at HootSuite’s office was a “furtherance of City business” held to promote neighbourhood engagement.