'I did make a mistake' in taking off mask, DiCianni says as he surrenders committee chairmanship
A DuPage County Board member who confronted Black Lives Matter supporters without wearing a mask resigned as chairman of the county's health and human services committee Tuesday but will retain his board seat.
Pete DiCianni sparked a firestorm when a video showed him speaking loudly and without a mask to counterprotesters during a "Back the Blue" event on June 27 outside the Elmhurst police station. The Elmhurst Republican also responded crudely to an email from a resident demanding his resignation.
Board members Elizabeth Chaplin of Downers Grove and Mary FitzGerald Ozog of Glen Ellyn, both Democrats, reacted by calling for DiCianni to be censured. They said he showed a lack of respect for the safety of others during a pandemic.
On Tuesday, DiCianni announced during a nearly 5½-hour board meeting that he was stepping down as chairman of the health and human services committee.
"This is challenging for me to do, because it's a position I love," he said. "But I did make a mistake. I did have a mask (and) I took it off. Shame on me."
DiCianni said he loves serving the public and will continue to advocate for health issues.
"I just won't do that as chairman of HHS," he said.
After the meeting, Chaplin said DiCianni made the right decision, especially because county board rules do not allow for censure.
"This satisfies my concerns," Chaplin said. "I think he understands now that it (not wearing a mask) was not the best thing to do."
Before DiCianni's announcement, roughly 40 people upset about his actions protested outside the county building in Wheaton. More than 125 others on both sides of the issue gathered inside.
The board ended up hearing four hours of public comment.
A vast majority of the roughly 30 individuals who spoke in person voiced support for DiCianni, but the county also received about 340 written comments, most of them critical of DiCianni and calling for him to resign. Roughly 150 of those comments were read aloud.
Chairman Dan Cronin publicly admonished DiCianni for his initial actions and his response to the controversy in the subsequent weeks.
"He could have just simply apologized immediately for acting inappropriately, and that probably would have ended it," Cronin said. "But instead, this board member stoked division -- twisting the facts and circulating misleading information in an effort to promote himself."
Cronin said a robocall DiCianni made on Sunday to targeted households took a divisive situation and made it worse by claiming Democrats were seeking to reduce funding for law enforcement.
Cronin said it's "simply false" to imply the county board is considering any reductions to law enforcement. He said DiCianni "chose to deliberately share misinformation."
If DiCianni hadn't stepped down as chairman of the committee, Cronin said he would have asked board members to remove him from that post.
When DiCianni spoke, he acknowledged his emotions got the best of him during the pro-police rally. In one video clip from the event, DiCianni is seen going up to a woman who is holding a megaphone and saying something close to her face.
DiCianni said he was wearing a mask at the start of the event but took it off when counterprotesters started using megaphones and cowbells.
"My passion for the men and women in blue led me to remove my mask so I could be heard," he said.
As for his crude response to the email from a constituent, DiCianni said it wasn't his finest moment.
"It's something I do regret," he said. "But I will not apologize for standing up for our fine police officers who consistently provide the best."
DiCianni, who has been a county board member since 2012, served as Elmhurst mayor from 2009 to 2012.