Minority Firm Led by a Dead Woman

Mickey Ciokajlo and Dan Mihalopoulos, Chicago Tribune, Mar. 26

The woman Cook County officials believed was in charge of the day-to-day operations of a politically connected minority firm has been dead for more than a year, prompting a county review of whether the company qualifies as a minority firm.

Her death has raised questions with the county as to whether day-to-day management is in the hands of a minority.

The revelation raises a new question about a company owned by Jabir Herbert Muhammad, who the City of Chicago claimed last week used a separate firm as a minority front for businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a key adviser to Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Deloris Wade, an African-American woman who was chief operating officer of Crucial Communications LLC, died Jan. 23, 2004. Under the terms of minority business certification, companies are required to be owned and operated by a minority. They are also required to notify the county of any major changes in the operation of the company.

Yet nearly eight months later, when the company submitted its affidavit for minority recertification on Sept. 14, 2004, the firm indicated nothing had changed in the “control/management” of the company.

Crucial Communications LLC is the minority subcontractor on the county’s multimillion-dollar pay telephone deal with SBC Illinois.

Muhammad’s other company, Crucial Inc., was accused by the city as fronting for Rezko in the operation of two Panda Express restaurants at O’Hare International Airport.

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Jackson said she began working with Muhammad on this issue only in the last couple of weeks. She said Muhammad, son of late Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, has asked her to work with him “on the day-to-day operations myself until a suitable replacement is found” for Wade.

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Wade’s resume shows she was special assistant to the president at Rezko Enterprises for nearly six years until she became chief operating officer of Crucial Communications in April 2003.

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