DuPage board member calls on colleague to recuse himself from field court decision

County board member Sam Tornatore insists his job as a municipal prosecutor shouldn't prevent him from voting on a proposal to move one of DuPage's field courts to Woodridge.

But a fellow Republican on the board is calling for Tornatore to recuse himself from the decision.

"I don't feel somebody who has a conflict should be engaging in discussion or debate or a vote on the issue," county board member Pete DiCianni, an Elmhurst Republican, said Tuesday. "He's got two hats: one as a county board member and the other as a municipal prosecutor. Those are in direct conflict with the issue that we have at hand."

DiCianni's remark came hours after Tornatore publicly refuted the conflict-of-interest claim during a board meeting.

"I will tell that county board member (DiCianni), the mayors, the chiefs, all of you and anybody who's willing to listen," said Tornatore, a Roselle Republican, "I have no conflict of interest regarding the Downers Grove field court or anything else."

DuPage is looking to close the field court in an American Legion post when the lease expires in February 2023 because of security concerns. County board members are considering two options.

The first is to move the field court to a new police station planned for Woodridge. The second is to bring the cases to the DuPage County courthouse in Wheaton.

DiCianni, who supports the Woodridge proposal, first suggested Tornatore had a conflict during a meeting last month. But Tornatore, who advocates bringing cases to Wheaton, had to hear DiCianni's comments over the phone because he was hospitalized with a broken leg.

Tuesday's meeting was Tornatore's first opportunity to respond. He said he considered DiCianni's comments to be "kind of a blindside attack," especially since he wasn't there to defend himself.

"I really do think my character and integrity were attacked that day," he said.

While he represents Bloomingdale as its village prosecutor, Tornatore said none of the town's cases are heard at the Downers Grove field court. He said he hasn't been to that location in more than two years.

"Whether the Downers Grove field court stays at the American Legion Hall, goes to Woodridge, comes here, or goes to Springfield is of no concern to me professionally or personally," Tornatore said.

He said his support for moving cases to Wheaton "is simply based on economics."

The Woodridge proposal is estimated to cost the county roughly $3.19 million over 20 years, which is significantly less expensive than keeping the Downers Grove site. But simply moving cases to Wheaton would cost the county an estimated $457,432.

DiCianni said he wants a field court serving District 2 "so my constituents aren't burdened having to trek from the southeast of the county all the way to Wheaton."

He said he also doesn't want municipalities burdened with the added cost of sending their police officers to the main courthouse.

"At the end of the day," he said, "Woodridge is a viable option."

County board members are expected to talk about the issue in December. DiCianni said he hopes Tornatore doesn't participate in that discussion.

"He's got to realize that, from time to time, there may be issues he needs to walk away from," he said. "I think this is one of them."

Pete DiCianni
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