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DePaul’s man at City Hall not involved in arena deal, officials say

Thomas Hynes who now is City Hall Springfield lobbyist for DePaul.

Thomas Hynes, who now is City Hall and Springfield lobbyist for DePaul.

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Updated: June 18, 2013 8:24AM

Thomas Hynes, the former Cook County Democratic Party boss, is paid $80,000 a year by DePaul University for lobbying at City Hall and has represented the university for years. His son Matt Hynes used to lobby for DePaul and now, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s $168,996-a-year intergovernmental affairs director, normally would have a central role in a deal like the one the mayor announced Thursday that will direct

more than $100 million of public funds toward building a new basketball arena for DePaul near McCormick Place.

But DePaul and Emanuel administration officials said neither of the Hyneses was involved in the deal for the new arena, which they described as an events center.

Thomas Hynes “has had no role in the development of the events center project, nor in any of the discussions” the university had with officials from the city and McPier, the government agency that runs McCormick Place, DePaul spokeswoman Carol Hughes said.

“There would have been no conflict or rules violation if Matt had worked on the McCormick Place event center, but, to avoid even the perception, he recused himself from the matter,” Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said.

Before the $173 million arena can be built, the Illinois General Assembly still needs to give its approval and to extend the existence of a special taxing district that would be relied on to cover $33 million in land costs.

City Hall sources said that once the mayor decided to go ahead with the partnership with DePaul, Matt Hynes resumed the role he’d normally have in “executing the legislation strategy” needed to get Springfield’s approval.

Matt Hynes would not comment Thursday. Thomas Hynes did not return calls.

Before Emanuel became mayor, Matt Hynes had worked for years with his father representing DePaul’s interests before city and state officials. DePaul has paid them nearly $600,000 to lobby at City Hall since 2004, according to documents they’ve filed with the city ethics board.

Matt Hynes was a Springfield lobbyist for DePaul with his father from 2002 until shortly before Emanuel was sworn in as mayor in May 2011, state records show. The father and son from the clout-heavy 19th Ward, on the far Southwest Side, registered as lobbyists for the university with City Hall in 2004.

DePaul has had Thomas Hynes, who is a lawyer, on retainer since the mid-1990s, Hughes said. Under his current, 18-month contract, which took effect at the start of this year, DePaul pays him $80,000 a year for services that “may include consulting and strategic public affairs advice . . . in connection with the city of Chicago.”

When Thomas Hynes and Matt Hynes first registered as City Hall lobbyists for DePaul, they told city officials they would represent the university on “the development of Wabash Avenue between Jackson and Adams Boulevards, the DePaul Center, its downtown and Lincoln Park facilities.” Since 2010, those filings have been amended to include the development of unspecified “other facilities.”

Peter Coffey, DePaul’s associate vice president for community and government relations, is the Democratic committeeman in Emanuel’s home ward — the 47th. Coffey was elected last year with backing from the mayor’s political organization.

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