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Commissioner says no conflict in Rolling Stones' promo at Vancouver city hall

Lisa Southern: "I find the display of the Rolling Stones logo on city hall was city business."
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ABC Vancouver city councillors Sarah Kirby-Yung, Peter Meiszner and Mike Klassen at city hall Nov. 21, 2023 to promote the July 5, 2024 Rolling Stones concert at BC Place Stadium.

Vancouver’s integrity commissioner has ruled that Mayor Ken Sim and three ABC Vancouver councillors did not breach the city’s code of conduct when they promoted a Rolling Stones concert scheduled for July 2024 at BC Place Stadium.

Sim and councillors Sarah Kirby-Yung, Peter Meiszner and Mike Klassen were the subject of a complaint from a citizen concerned about the Stones’ iconic tongue-and-lips logo being displayed Nov. 21, 2023 on the facade of city hall.

The display of the logo — which was done via lights — along with subsequent social media posts from the politicians boosting the legendary band’s Vancouver tour stop were alleged by the complainant to be a potential conflict of interest and a misuse of influence for non-official purposes.

The complainant is not named in Lisa Southern’s Dec. 15 report, which is now posted to the city’s website.

“I find the display of the Rolling Stones logo on city hall was city business,” Southern said. “The circumstances around the event resulted in net revenue for the city and the promotion did not involve personal use of city property by the respondent councillors or Mayor Sim.”

Section 4.5 of the city’s code of conduct bylaw states, in part, that members of council must not use, or permit the use of city land, facilities or equipment for non-city business. At the same time, there is no current policy framework covering the use of city property or other resources to promote non-city events.

Whether city hall or other city property should be used for marketing purposes to generate revenue for the city is a policy question for council and city staff, and one they are currently exploring, Southern said.

“However,” the commissioner added, “there is nothing in the code of conduct bylaw that prevents this type of activity, and therefore, there was no breach.”

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The Rolling Stones logo displayed on Vancouver city hall Nov. 21, 2023. Screenshot

$500 for licence to display logo

The complaint was lodged a few days after the concert promoter AEG Worldwide or “someone else” affiliated with the Rolling Stones concert in Vancouver approached the mayor’s office about using city hall to promote the July 5 gig at BC Place Stadium.

The mayor’s office connected the promoter with city manager Paul Mochrie, according to Southern, who noted the city “sometimes allows private entities to access city facilities for a fee.” The park board, she added, has worked previously with for-profit concert promoters.

Staff ultimately approved the projection of the logo on the facade of city hall.

Laura Ballance of Laura Ballance Media Group said in an email Wednesday that she worked with the promoter to get the Stones’ logo displayed on the clocktower of city hall.

“As the only Canadian city on the tour and given Vancouver and British Columbia’s incredible love of the Stones, we wanted to do something fun and special to celebrate the announcement,” Ballance said. “We covered all costs including the fee and insurance.”

Southern’s report confirmed the promoter paid $500 for a licence to display the logo on the building and covered all costs associated with the light display, including the power required.

“The use of city administrative resources required to coordinate approval of the display was more than offset by the $500 paid by the promoter,” Southern said. “While it was a small amount, there was a net revenue for the city.”

'Mick, Keith and Ronnie'

A one-minute video produced by the mayor’s office of the Nov. 21 event showed the three councillors in Stones’ hats on the back steps of city hall.

Kirby-Yung was at a microphone saying how “stoked” she was that the band was coming to Vancouver and that they needed to do something special to welcome “Mick, Keith and Ronnie.”

Sim, meanwhile, posted his own short video on the X media platform. He filmed the video in his city hall office, where the band’s “Honky Tonk Women” was audible from his stereo system.

He also wore a Stones’ baseball cap.

“In Vancouver, we have the biggest Rolling Stones fans and they are going to lose their shit next summer when you guys are rocking it out at BC Place,” the mayor said. “So thanks for being awesome and thanks for bringing your swagger to Vancouver.”

Southern said Sim’s social media posts did not breach the code of conduct bylaw.

“First, his posts did not use any city property or resources,” the commissioner said. “Second, the posts were about a use of city property for city business. For these reasons, I find that neither Mayor Sim nor the respondent councillors breached the code of conduct bylaw.”

'Loud voices for Vancouver'

Trevor Ford, the mayor’s chief of staff, responded in an email Wednesday to Southern’s findings.

“As noted in the report from the Integrity Commissioner Lisa Southern regarding a complaint related to the promotion of the Rolling Stones' concert this July, neither the Mayor nor any of the councillors listed, contravened the code of conduct bylaw.

“Council received the original request and it was duly passed on to city staff who handled it accordingly.

“It should also be noted that the Rolling Stones are an iconic rock band and Vancouver was the only Canadian city to be picked for their upcoming tour, which is truly fantastic. We thank the integrity commissioner for concluding this so swiftly and the Mayor and ABC councillors will continue to be loud voices for Vancouver being a destination for all, including the Rolling Stones.”

mhowell@glaciermedia.ca

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