Who's Who In Town Caught In Tangled Webio Deal

A tale including Mike North, Tom Shaer and the city's former fire chief

Former fire commissioner Cortez Trotter, who was once kept in city government when Mayor Richard M. Daley created a lucrative job for him to protect us from terrorists, has been tied to the imploded Web venture of now-fugitive David Hernandez.

"He was involved in the day-to-day operations," Be Be North, the wife of sports talker Mike North, who helped found Chicago Sports Webio with Hernandez, told Crain's. "He made the major decisions when David was not around. We had to go through him on every single move."

Be Be North was an executive with the venture.

"According to sources, Mr. Trotter attended regular Tuesday meetings at Mr. Hernandez's NextStep offices. When Webio wanted to hire former Bears linebacker Doug Buffone as an analyst, he had to meet with Mr. Trotter, sources said," Crain's reports.

Trotter also has a piece of the mayor's controversial parking meter deal.

"Under pressure from aldermen to comply with the city's minority set-aside requirements, LAZ Parking Chicago LLC has hastily assembled a team of subcontractors that includes former mayoral press secretary Avis LaVelle and Cortez Trotter, who was Chicago's first African-American fire commissioner before being promoted to chief emergency officer," the Sun-Times has reported.

Trotter, North & Co. apparently didn't do their due diligence or forgave Hernandez's past.

"[Hernandez] pleaded guilty in 1998 to embezzling more than $600,000 from families that had deposited savings at the former Columbia National Bank on the Northwest Side, where he had served as a vice president," the Tribune reports.

"The SEC complaint also said that Hernandez and his wife had filed for bankruptcy in 2004, 2005 and 2006, which court records confirm, and that he lied about having degrees from the University of Wisconsin and John Marshall Law School in Chicago."

"[Shaer] had dealing with David Hernandez during the 1990s and knew all about him being convicted for wire fraud in 1998," Crain's reports.

On Thursday, Shaer tried to distance himself from the controversy by explaining what he knew and when he knew it.

"I had absolutely no knowledge of any recent or current wrongdoing by Hernandez," Shaer told NBC Chicago.  "I only knew about things the FBI had told me 11 years ago, and I called the same FBI agent in January, 2009.  He told me they had no knowledge of Hernandez not being clean now.  The agent's words to me, 'He's a bright guy.  Often times people pay their debt to society, turn their lives around, and do legitimate work.'  I assumed that if I knew all this, then Mike North and others knew this. If I had known anything bad was going on, or might possibly occur, of course I would have told everyone I know, but I had no such knowledge."

"He described Mr. Hernandez as a 'Score groupie.' He would hang out at remotes and frequently called in to the station, identifying himself as 'Banker Dave," Ed Sherman writes on ChicagoBusiness.com.

"Mr. Shaer met Mr. Hernandez through Mr. North. He recalled at a party at Mr. North's house in 1996, Mr. Hernandez, then a vice-president at Columbia Bank in Chicago, offered to help arrange financing for Mr. Shaer's house. Mr. Hernandez even offered Mr. Shaer use of his vacation house."

Shaer told Crain's he didn't think to speak up when he learned of Hernandez's involvement with Webio because it wasn't any of his business.

"Did you ever think about the people who have now lost their life savings and their homes because of this?" Crain's commenter Frederick S. says.

Their good instincts - or something - kept a couple of local sportswriters from escaping Hernandez's clutches. On Chicago Tonight last night, former Tribune reporter Melissa Isaacson said she considered joining Webio; the Tribune's Teddy Greenstein was also named as someone who gave the venture serious consideration.

But Mike North - and Cortez Trotter - are the figures whom the spotlight will turn to while Hernandez is on the lam.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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