$2 mil. — for what?
REZKO TIES | Subcontractor on county deal hasn’t shown it’s done any work
April 30, 2007
BY STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org
Four years after a company with ties to indicted political insider Tony Rezko landed a lucrative no-bid Cook County contract, there’s no evidence the firm has done any work for the millions of dollars it has made.
Crucial Communications is a minority-owned subcontractor on AT&T’s pact to provide phone services at the county jail. But a recent audit shows the company has not submitted any documents showing what it has done for the more than $2 million it has received, other than help AT&T meet its minority contracting requirement.
Crucial Communications has ties to political insider Tony Rezko (inset), who has been indicted in an alleged kickback scheme.
Crucial Communications is headed by Jabir Muhammad, son of former Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. In 2005, the City of Chicago accused Muhammad of serving as a minority front for Rezko on an O’Hare Airport contract.
Records also show Cook County government did not receive more than $1 million it was owed on that contract, which commissioners have called an insider deal from the start.
The findings by the county’s own auditors have prompted County Board President Todd Stroger to shake up leadership, as “we’re very troubled by it,” chief of staff Lance Tyson said. “It’s not going to be tolerated.”
A spokesman said the county won’t renew the contract when it expires in July.
In a letter to county officials, AT&T says a computer glitch and oversights caused the company to short Cook County $1.2 million it was due from phone fees received by AT&T. The phone company agreed to pay it after the discrepancy was uncovered.
But it disputes auditor’s findings that it short-changed the county even more. Former county IT director Catherine Maras-O’Leary says the audit includes “glaring inaccuracies and innuendo.”
She was fired just days after it was released.
AT&T concedes Crucial Communications hasn’t provided any documentation showing what it does as a minority subcontractor on the contract.
Headed by a dead woman
But an AT&T spokesman says that’s because the contract — which was valued at $16 million when it was awarded — doesn’t require it and adds the firm “is meeting the obligation of the contract.”
The contract requires a minority-owned company to get at least 35 percent of the work.
Crucial Communications was created just before the contract was awarded. It had no other phone experience, has no other clients and has just a handful of employees — some politically connected.
When the contract was awarded, Commissioner Mike Quigley called it “incestuous as hell.”
Rezko, indicted for allegedly demanding kickbacks on state contracts, shares office space with the firm, is close to Muhammad and has a brother on the firm’s payroll. Rezko denies he has anything to do with Crucial Communications, even though he is part owner of a separate firm in the same office, Crucial Inc., which provided the startup money for Crucial Communications.
For almost a year, Crucial Communications was nominally headed by a dead woman, and John Stroger’s personal assistant notarized documents confirming her continued involvement.
A person who answered the phone at Crucial Communications twice replied “who?” when asked for Muhammad. When Crucial was mentioned, she referred the call to a Cook County government number.
A message left at that county number was not returned.
An attorney for Muhammad, who has been seriously ill for years, also did not return a call.
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$2 mil. — for what?