I think you have your facts wrong. The artist, Lawrence Argent is the one who maxed out his credit to produce 68000 of the miniture bears to try and make some money during the DNC. If he wasn't able to sell the bears during the convention then he might have sold them to the city consequently, but this was not some alternate way for Denver to make money off of someone elses labor.
Best Colorado Souvenir Denver 2008 - "I See What You Mean"
When Lawrence Argent's giant blue bear — the piece of public artwork officially known as "I See What You Mean" — first appeared outside the Colorado Convention Center, it inspired all sorts of brainstorms among local boosters. Dressing the people who were pushing the extension of the arts tax in blue bear costumes, for example. Draping the sculpture itself in a giant orange scarf to hype the Broncos' season. There was just one snafu in all these schemes: The city owned the art, but not the rights to Argent's image. Some better-late-than-never legal work took care of that, and so Denver is now able to sell, through city outlets, authorized 12" and 16" high versions of the big blue bear, already Denver's most beloved icon (excluding John Elway). What? Were you expecting miniature models of "The Dancers"?