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Dead woman listed as leading firm

Sunday, March 27, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County is investigating whether a politically connected minority subcontractor failed to alert officials about the death of its female African-American chief operating officer more than a year ago and continued to conduct business without a minority at its helm, a county spokeswoman said Saturday.

"The fact of the matter is that new information caused us to take a look at the certification of Crucial Communications," said Caryn Stancik, a spokeswoman for County Board President John Stroger.

Crucial Communications LLC Chief Operating Officer Deloris Wade died in January 2004.

But when the company submitted its affidavit for minority contracting in the fall, the company said nothing had changed with its ownership and control, Stancik said.

Crucial, which is the contractor for the county's telephone deal with SBC Illinois, is owned by African-American businessman Jabir Herbert Muhammad, the son of the late Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad.

Earlier this month, the City of Chicago revealed that Muhammad's other company, Crucial Inc., operated two Panda Express fast-food restaurants at O'Hare Airport as a minority front for Gov. Blagojevich's top fund-raiser, Antoin "Tony" Rezko.

Muhammad, who owns 55 percent of Crucial Inc., admitted to a city compliance officer that he was not running day-to-day business at the eateries in 2002. Rezko owns 45 percent of the company.

Rezko is not affiliated with Crucial Communications LLC, Stancik said.

Muhammad's attorney Roxanne B. Jackson insisted Muhammad will be exonerated by the county.

"Ms. Wade was an administrative person who was overseeing day-to-day responsibilities. Once she died, Mr. Muhammad had been overseeing the company and had various people helping him with day-to day-operations," Jackson said. "I'm sure once documents are turned over to the county, everything will be fine."

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