State: Think Loud CEO's criminal past won't affect $5M grant
Editor's note: This article originally was published July 24, 2014
The CEO of a York-based company that received a $5 million grant from the state earlier this month was convicted in 2010 of a third-degree felony theft related to business transactions in Northampton County.
Gov. Tom Corbett was not aware of Bill Hynes' conviction before signing off on the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant to Think Loud Development, according to a Corbett spokeswoman.
Informed about the conviction Thursday, Lynn Lawson said the governor is "all systems go based on the tremendous plan they have."
"When you look at what Think Loud has committed to doing and is already in the midst of doing to help the economic devlopment for the City of York and providing jobs and bringing to Pennsylvania a landmark data center, that's what the focus is," Lawson said.
Lawson noted "broad legislative support" for the project, though it is the governor who makes the final call on grant awards.
"I think the impact and value of Think Loud and what they're all about, from a philosophical approach, to how they do their business speaks much louder than this incident from five years ago," she said.
The project: Think Loud plans to use the $5 million to finish construction at the former Bi-Comp Inc. building, where Think Loud has established business offices, a recording studio and several apartment suites.
Construction began in 2012 on the $16.8 million project at 210 York St. but had been on hold while Think Loud waited for state officials to decide on the RACP grant, Hynes said last week.
After that project is done, work will begin on the construction of a 40,000-square-foot data center — at an anticipated cost of $30 million — for United Fiber and Data, a fiber optic company with plans to build an information-transmission line between New York and northern Virginia.
In preparation, Think Loud has purchased about 80 percent of the homes on the northern side of Chestnut Street and plans to demolish them, Hynes has said.
Partners in both Think Loud and United Fiber and Data include Hynes and Live musicians Chad Taylor, Chad Gracey and Patrick Dahlheimer. Hynes, 42, has a home in Nazareth, Pa., in Northampton County.
Taylor, Dahlheimer and Gracey formed Live with former lead singer Ed Kowalczyk in 1985. The four, all York natives, went on to achieve mainstream success with their 1994 album "Throwing Copper," which produced a string of radio hits.
Lawson said Think Loud is "likely" to receive more RACP funds "given the scope of the project."
She said she does not anticipate Hynes' conviction will have "any impact on the existing project, again, because of the strength of that project."
"We're talking 700 jobs," she said.
The RACP process requires audited financial statements from the applicant, Lawson said.
She also noted that the state "does not turn over a check at the start of a project" but reimburses RACP projects. The state also withholds 10 percent of the reimburseable amount until the project is complete and an audit confirms financial information, Lawson said.
The charges: Bethlehem Township Police charged Hynes on July 28, 2009, with theft by deception, a third-degree felony.
Police allege in the criminal complaint that Hynes stole about $13,500 from Team Capital Bank.
On July 8, 2009, according to court documents, Hynes deposited funds from a Navy Federal Credit Union account into the Team Capital Bank account in two checks — one for $7,000 and another for $6,500. The checks were signed by Hynes and made payable to ADS Builders East LLC, a development company Hynes co-owned.
Then, on July 14, 2009, Team Capital Bank was notified that the first two checks for $7,000 and $6,500 were returned for insufficient funds. But in the meantime, court documents indicate that Hynes had drawn $13,100 from the Team Capital Bank account and incurred a holding fee of $371.
According to the criminal complaint, a police officer had "numerous conversations" with Hynes, who said he had "made a mistake" and would wire money to the bank.
But that hadn't happened by the time police filed charges on July 28, 2009.
Hynes waived his right to a jury trial and pleaded not guilty. At a bench trial Sept. 15, 2010, a judge found Hynes guilty. He was sentenced Dec. 22, 2010, to a minimum of three months and 15 days in prison, followed by 24 months of probation.
That sentence was later reduced to a minimum of two months in prison, followed by 24 months of probation. Hynes said he spent about three weeks in prison. He was also required to perform 100 hours of community service.
Interviewed by phone Thursday, Hynes characterized the incident as a clerical error that originated with his company and led to a dispute between two banks about which company had been shortchanged.
Hynes said he attempted to remedy the situation immediately upon discovering the error but was unable to do so because one of the banks held the money in an escrow account for 60 business days.
Hynes said he believes he was charged and convicted because of his temper.
"Honestly, they convicted me because I'm very passionate, and I yelled at them and screamed at them and said, 'This is crazy,'" Hynes said. "But that's a mistake too."
In a statement, Taylor said Think Loud "encourages the oversight and scrutiny of our state government."
"Ultimately, our company is prepared for this level of scrutiny and responsibility because we believe in our project and of course, our community," Taylor wrote. "The City of York, the state of Pennsylvania, and our fellow taxpayers will be better off as a result. We're proudly creating hundreds of jobs while highlighting the incredible resources and potential of our hometown."
Hynes said he's been upfront about his past with community members. He also pointed to his philanthropic contributions through Think Loud.
For example, the company paid $6,500 to buy and train the York County Sheriff's Office bomb-sniffing dog, Dargo. Think Loud has also been a financial supporter of the York County Quick Response Team and the York City Police Department.
"Big deal. I bounced a check. I made a mistake. Let's move on," Hynes said.
Hynes paid the bank the full debt owed shortly after the trial, according to court documents.
Hynes has unsuccessfully appealed the case. He said he intends to appeal again.
According to a judge's ruling on Hynes' first appeal, an evidentiary hearing was held Jan. 27, 2012. Hynes alleged that his first attorney in the case, Adam Sager, was ineffective in his representation.
In testimony at the hearing, Sager said Hynes agreed to deposit the money into an escrow account at Sager's firm "but only if they had an agreement with the bank to drop the charges and the district attorney's office agreed.
"For several days in January 2010, Sager said, he advised Hynes to wire the money to the bank, which had agreed not to testify against Hynes if he paid the debt. But Hynes did not wire the money.
Eventually, Sager testified, he advised Hynes not to wire the money until he could "revitalize the agreement" with the bank.
Sager testified that he resumed advising Hynes between May 2010 to September 2010 that he should wire money to the bank. Hynes disputed that claim in his testimony at the hearing.
At the trial, a representative of the district attorney's office testified the office had offered to withdraw the charges if Hynes fully satisfied the debt. Bank employees testified they'd "actually attempted to assist the defendant with wiring the funds before trial."
Hynes testified he did not believe Sager adequately prepared for the trial.
According to the judge's ruling, Hynes said he "would have called a number of people as witnesses, including his business partner, mayors, congressmen, and other people who he dealt with on a regular basis because those individuals could have attested to his ability to pay."