HootSuite received more from the City of Vancouver last year to renovate the city-owned building it occupies than it paid to use the building.
Figures released by city hall show the social media company paid $692,145.80 for rent, parking and property taxes in 2013, the first of a five-year lease at 5 East Eighth Ave.
On April 10, 2013, city hall paid $698,922 to HootSuite under the tenant improvement allowance clause of the lease contract, which was approved by city council behind closed doors on June 27, 2012.
Various city hall departments also paid HootSuite $42,438.92 for use of the HootSuite Enterprise Package, subscriptions, and Twitter account management.
City hall’s Freedom of Information office had refused to disclose monthly payments to and from HootSuite on five separate requests filed since last September. That changed when the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C. intervened in February.
The city now shows it paid $39,458.68 for the HootSuite Enterprise Package from January to November, $423.63 in Library monthly charges and $804.10 for IT monthly charges. The mayor’s office spent $1,667.34 and councillors $85.17 on HootSuite subscriptions.
The purchases from HootSuite fell under the $75,000 threshold for an open, public tendering process. Documents released by city hall, however, show that bureaucrats did not follow policy to research the prices of competing products.
After three months of free rent, the Jan. 21-released contract called for payments of $47,149.50 per month ($17 per square foot) for the first year, plus $4,615 per month for 71 parking stalls (at $65 each). By year five, HootSuite is supposed to pay $61,017 per month in rent.
The tenant improvement allowance was set at $20 per square foot for the 33,282-square-foot former Vancouver Police building. HootSuite’s contract includes two five-year lease extensions and an option to purchase the building for $9.3 million that expires on Dec. 31, 2015. The latest assessment shows the property is worth $10.191 million.
If it exercised the purchase clause, HootSuite would have to repay a portion of the tenant improvement allowance.
Cedar Party leader Glen Chernen launched a B.C. Supreme Court petition on Feb. 14 aimed at disqualifying Mayor Gregor Robertson from office for not declaring his HootSuite conflict of interest under the Vancouver Charter. Chernen claimed HootSuite got the city building lease without tender because it helped Robertson and his Vision Vancouver party win the 2011 election.
Robertson’s defence statement has yet to be filed, but he did call the allegations “bizarre” and claimed city hall was helping HootSuite for economic development reasons.
“This contract with HootSuite for their services is just another piece of proof that some of our elected officials think it is all right to give their friends and supporters special access and privileges to our city without any questions or consequences,” Chernen said.
Neither the office of the mayor nor HootSuite responded for comment on Friday morning.