Democrats blast Cronin over naming Tornatore to fill DiCianni's committee chair role

Three Democrats on the DuPage County Board are blasting Chairman Dan Cronin for his plan to appoint a fellow Republican to the chairmanship of the county's health and human services committee.

Elizabeth Chaplin of Downers Grove, Dawn DeSart of Aurora and Mary FitzGerald Ozog of Glen Ellyn say the vice chairman of the committee - Hinsdale Democrat Julie Renehan - should become chairman but is being passed over.

"To say that we are disappointed that you - once again - would undermine a female leader on this board is an understatement," Chaplin, DeSart and Ozog wrote in an email sent Thursday to Cronin. "Instead of leadership that is in the best interest of DuPage County residents, this is a 'political' decision at best; and a misogynist decision, at worst."

On Friday, Cronin defended his decision to pick board member Sam Tornatore as the next health and human services chairman.

"When making appointments for various positions in the county, I evaluate the skills of the candidate and the demands of the position," the Elmhurst Republican said in a statement. "I make a concerted effort to make the best match possible."

He said Tornatore, a Roselle Republican, is the "obvious and uniquely qualified choice" to become the next chairman of the health and human services committee.

Meanwhile, Cronin added, "My record of appointment of women and minorities is unprecedented in DuPage County and speaks for itself."

In the past two years, Cronin has made 61 appointments to boards and commissions. Of those, 39% were women or minorities, according to a county spokesman.

The political fight started just one day after board member Pete DiCianni resigned as health and human services chairman. The Elmhurst Republican surrendered the committee chairmanship on Tuesday because he was facing a barrage of criticism for not wearing a mask while confronting counterprotesters during a pro-police rally last month in Elmhurst.

On Wednesday, Cronin emailed a letter to the board announcing his selection of Tornatore. The board is expected to vote on the appointment next month.

Cronin said he made his decision because Tornatore has spent seven years on the committee and is the president of the DuPage County Board of Health. Tornatore also serves on the Illinois Housing Development Authority Board.

"Sam's deep understanding of the county public health system, his experience dealing with and advocating for various nonprofit agencies and his heartfelt support of the DuPage Care Center make him the perfect leader for this role," Cronin wrote in the letter to the board.

Renehan said Friday she was "absolutely surprised" by Cronin's announcement.

"I received no phone call, no heads up," she said.

Renehan is a lawyer who has worked for years doing pro bono work throughout the community. She's been vice chairman of the health and human services committee for a year and a half.

"I have worked with nonprofits, low-income residents, veterans," she said. "My experience certainly qualifies me to take over a committee."

Renehan said she sent her own letter to Cronin on Thursday.

"Unfortunately, this is politics," she said. "And I think women in leadership - and the residents who elected them - are dismissed with this kind of decision."

Chaplin, DeSart and Ozog say Tornatore is "deeply respected" but already holds two committee chairmanships. He is chairman of the legislative committee as well as the development committee.

Cronin said he has asked Tornatore to step down as legislative committee chairman if he becomes the health and human services chairman.

Still, Chaplin, DeSart and Ozog argue that Cronin's reasoning for making Tornatore health and human services chairman "falls flat." They say they will vote against the appointment.

"Our 'no' votes reflect our lack of respect for your leadership and for always playing politics, rather than being the leader the good people of DuPage County need and demand, especially during these unprecedented and uncertain times," they wrote to Cronin.

Julie Renehan
Sam Tornatore
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