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Ald. Moreno: Mayoral aide made threats before Soo Choi hearing

Ald. “Proco” Joe Moreno (left) said he has no reasbelieve Mayor Rahm Emanuel either authorized or condoned whMoreno says is

Ald. “Proco” Joe Moreno (left) said he has no reason to believe Mayor Rahm Emanuel either authorized or condoned what Moreno says is an aide’s strong-arm tactic. | Photo for the City of Chicago by Antonio Dickey (left); John H. White~Sun-Times (right)

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Updated: September 28, 2011 12:19AM

Ald. “Proco” Joe Moreno (1st) disclosed Friday that a top mayoral aide threatened to permanently cut off his access to Mayor Rahm Emanuel if he dared to question the appointment of the mayor’s new hiring chief.

Moreno said the threat was made by Matt Hynes, director of the Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, minutes before a June 7 confirmation hearing for Deputy Inspector General Soo Choi.

That’s where Moreno demanded that Choi’s nomination be withdrawn for contributing $4,800 to former Inspector General David Hoffman’s failed 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate, making loans to Hoffman’s campaign and by hosting a campaign event for Hoffman at her home in violation of the ordinance authorizing the inspector general’s office.

Hynes is a former Emanuel campaign operative who is the brother of former State Comptroller Dan Hynes and the son of former Cook County Assessor Tom Hynes.

“The hearing was about to start. An underling [of Hynes] told me Matt wanted to talk to me. They handed me the phone and, verbatim, he said, ‘If you raise these questions, you will not have another private meeting with the mayor,’ ” said Moreno, who had raised the issue privately with Choi and Hynes days before.

“It was quite clear what they were trying to do and I don’t entertain those tactics. Threats are not gonna work with me. I ended the conversation and went in there and questioned her.”

Hynes could not be reached. The mayor’s communications director Chris Mather would only say, “I talked to Matt. It never happened.”

Moreno responded to Mather’s denial by saying, “That’s a bald-faced lie.”

Despite Emanuel’s reputation for playing hardball politics, Moreno said he has no reason to believe the mayor either authorized or condoned Hynes’ strong-arm tactic. Nor does Moreno fear that Emanuel will make good on the threat by freezing the alderman out.

To the contrary, Emanuel made it a point to stop by the alderman’s desk at a City Council meeting the following day, ask how Moreno was doing and small talk with the alderman behind Council chambers without mentioning the Choi controversy. Emanuel had also previously agreed to chair a June 30 fundraiser for Moreno.

But, Moreno called the threat by Hynes heavy-handed, “inappropriate, unproductive” and worthy of a reprimand from Chicago’s new mayor.

“The mayor was elected. Aldermen were elected. People chose us to represent them. I respect the role of IGA, but they were not elected,” Moreno said.

The ordinance governing the inspector general’s office clearly states that, “Neither the inspector general nor any employee of the office of inspector general shall engage in any political activity.”

Nevertheless, Choi claimed to have a legal opinion that authorized her contributions to Hoffman.

A spokesman for the inspector general’s office has confirmed that the Board of Ethics, using an opinion from the corporation counsel, determined that, no matter what the ordinance states, employees cannot be barred from participating in politics.

Under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs was run by former Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO) chieftain Victor Reyes.

Aldermen who dared to oppose the mayor’s programs often encountered campaign opposition from HDO and other pro-Daley armies of political workers.

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