As several support DuPage sheriff, county chair says she'll seek censure over weapons ban remarks

Saying words matter, DuPage County Board Chair Deborah Conroy Tuesday said she will seek to censure Sheriff James Mendrick.

Conroy's announcement came after more than 200 people gathered at the board meeting on Tuesday to express support or outrage over Mendrick's refusal to fully enforce the state's new ban on high-powered weapons and high-capacity magazines.

"I think it's very important, and I'm telling myself this as well as each and every one of you, that we remember as elected officials that words matter," Conroy said. "Words are very important. The repercussions of what we say can be dangerous at times.

"It is my feeling that the board needs to have confidence that our sheriff is focusing on the safety of our residents and not engaging in inflammatory political rhetoric," she said.

Conroy, an Elmhurst Democrat, said she plans to present a resolution censuring Mendrick at the Feb. 14 county board meeting.

After Tuesday's meeting, Conroy said she has not spoken to Mendrick, a Republican, and reiterated a call for him to attend a county board meeting to account for his statement.

Mendrick, who has not attended a county board meeting in several months, was not at Tuesday's meeting and did not respond to requests for comment.

DuPage County Board member James Zay, a Carol Stream Republican, said he would vote against the censure.

"I support our Sheriff Jim Mendrick and his right to speak out about the problems with this act," Zay said, referring to the state's new law on high-powered weapons.

He questioned the level of scrutiny Mendrick has endured from federal, state and county lawmakers in recent days.

"I'm concerned about the voracity we're going after law enforcement officials and nothing about stronger penalties for those who commit crimes with a firearm," Zay said.

But board member Yeena Yoo, an Elmhurst Democrat, said she has heard from residents who are dismayed by Mendrick's statement.

"They have expressed that they feel less safe, that they have lost faith that he will perform all of his duties," Yoo said. "He has, in fact, eroded people's trust in his office."

At the start of Tuesday's county board meeting, Yoo asked for a moment of silence for victims of recent gun violence, such as Saturday's mass shooting where 11 people were killed in Monterey Park, California, as they gathered to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Tuesday's meeting drew added security detail and metal detectors at entrances to the county building. County officials said more than one person had to be turned away for trying to bring knives and other prohibited items into the building.

Mendrick is among dozens of Illinois sheriffs who have issued statements questioning the constitutionality of the state's new ban. In his statement, Mendrick said he would neither arrest nor house anyone in the county jail solely for not complying with the ban. He also has said he would continue to investigate and arrest those charged with other crimes involving guns.

His statement drew the ire of several Democratic county board members, residents, state lawmakers and the Democratic congressional delegation representing DuPage County, who argued Mendrick cannot selectively decide which laws he will enforce. At a news conference Monday, U.S. Rep. Sean Casten and other Democratic lawmakers again called on Mendrick to retract his statement or resign.

Joe Cosentino was one of several people at Tuesday's meeting who defended Mendrick and his statement.

"I would ask those requesting the sheriff to step down to do the same," said Cosentino, a West Chicago resident and firearms instructor.

"I stand in support of Sheriff Mendrick," said Jeanne Ives, a Wheaton resident and former state representative who lost her bid for governor in the 2018 primary. "He has done an outstanding job keeping our community safe."

While the majority of speakers supported Mendrick, many also echoed calls for the sheriff to enforce the new ban fully and backed county officials who have called on him to, as they said, do his job.

"If our new gun laws can save just one child, it's worth it," said Jax West, a Lisle resident who read the names of children killed by gun violence in 2023. "Do your job, Sheriff Mendrick. You are to enforce laws, not make them."

'We're not going to let this die': Push for DuPage sheriff to retract weapons ban statement grows

  On Tuesday, supporters of DuPage County Sheriff Mendrick showed up at the DuPage County administration building in Wheaton to speak during the county board meeting. Brian Hill/
  Supporters of DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick gather Tuesday outside the county's administration building before the county board meeting. Brian Hill/
  Karen Polos of West Chicago, left, and Paula Smith of Wheaton show their opinions in support of Sheriff James Mendrick, who has said he won't enforce all provisions of the state's ban on high-powered weapons, outside the DuPage County Board meeting on Tuesday. Brian Hill/
  A large crowd of people filled an auditorium, used as an overflow room Tuesday morning, to watch the county board meeting at the DuPage County administration building in Wheaton. Brian Hill/
  Elizabeth Zinnen of Wheaton, left, and Silvia Saenz from Florida make their feelings known for or against the state's ban on high-powered weapons Tuesday during the DuPage County Board meeting in Wheaton. Brian Hill/
  Jamie Clark of Itasca speaks in support of DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick during the county board meeting on Tuesday. "Thankfully we have a sheriff who is wiling to protect citizens from our own government," Clark said. Brian Hill/
  The crowd erupts in cheers Tuesday after Jamie Clark of Itasca spoke during the DuPage County Board meeting in Wheaton. Clark said the state's gun law violates Second Amendment and praised DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick for protecting citizens' rights. Brian Hill/
  DuPage County Board Chair Deborah Conroy says she will seek to censure Sheriff James Mendrick because of his refusal to enforce the state's new ban on high-powered weapons and high-capacity magazines. Brian Hill/
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