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News

DiCianni gives up chair on DuPage County committee amid withering criticism

WHEATON – Pete DiCianni is stepping down as chairman of the DuPage County Health and Human Services Committee amid withering criticism over his actions at a Blue Lives Matter pro-police rally in June.

DiCianni, the former mayor of Elmhurst and an Elmhurst Republican who represents District 2 on the DuPage County Board, made the announcement at Tuesday's board meeting in Wheaton.

"I don't want this to be an issue. I will step down as chairman of health and human services in lieu of divisiveness," DiCianni said. "It's a position I love, but I did make a mistake. I didn't wear a mask, I took it off, shame on me. But I stood up for people I worked with for years and gave their lives."

Fellow board members Elizabeth Chaplin and Mary FitzGerald Ozog had called for DiCianni's censure in the days after the incident June 27 in Elmhurst. DiCianni, attending the Blue Lives Matter rally, engaged in at times heated exchanges – while not wearing a mask – with counter-protesters. Snippets of videos of the those exchanges made their way to social media. His response to an email from a constituent further fueled the controversy.

A Hinsdale organization supporting Black Lives Matter started a petition demanding DiCianni's resignation from the board, which garnered more than 1,000 signatures within days.

"My own passions admittedly got the best of me when I was met with hostility for supporting the fine men and women of the Elmhurst Police Department," DiCianni said. "My own passion for the men and women in blue led me to remove my mask so I could be heard, ending in a lapse of judgment, and an email to a constituent – certainly not my finest moment and something I do regret. But I will not apologize for standing up for our fine police officers."

DiCianni's status was a lightning rod to passions seen on both sides Tuesday in Wheaton.

A protest organized by Indivisible DuPage, Hinsdale for Black Lives Matter and other organizations calling for DiCianni's removal gathered along County Farm Road an hour before the start of the meeting. Dozens of demonstrators held signs "Remove Pete DiCianni," "Black Lives Matter" and "Who do you Serve," and marched along Roosevelt Road during the meeting.

Meanwhile, a crowd of over 100 people supporting DiCianni carried signs like "I Back Pete" and "Stand with the Blue."

Close to 30 people spoke in an hour and a half of public comment, the vast majority in support of DiCianni. The county also received more than 300 emailed comments, most of them critical of DiCianni and calling on him to resign, and close to half were read aloud over two hours.

Earlier DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin admonished DiCianni for his response to the controversy, and called for the finance committee to take up the question of DiCianni's removal as Health and Human Services Committee chairman.

He cited a robocall DiCianni circulated on Sunday to District 2 residents saying that the board planned to discuss reducing funding for police at Tuesday's meeting. Cronin said that the actions made the board have to call in extra security for Tuesday in anticipation of a larger crowd, and that it was "simply false" to suggest that the county board is considering any reductions to law enforcement.

"This board member's action created unnecessary fear and division, taking what was a divisive situation and making it much worse," Cronin said. "During a time that COVID is spiking this person that chairs the health committee acted without regard to public health, urged people to crowd this meeting today under false pretenses.

"I believe true leaders tell the truth and adhere to public health guidelines. I understand people make mistakes, it's the willful disregard for the truth and the intentional spreading of false information and putting other's health at risk."

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