Palermo’s time as Omaha City Councilman is up as seat officially becomes vacant next week
President Pete Festersen says the council hopes to have his replacement appointed by September.
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - In one week, Vinny Palermo will officially no longer be an Omaha City Councilman.
West Omaha Councilman Brinker Harding made a short statement at the beginning of Tuesday afternoon’s city council meeting, saying this is not a milestone to celebrate since, by the time a replacement is made, District 4 voters will have gone five-plus months without proper representation.
In Harding’s view, they deserve better.
“Here we sit as Omaha City Council and there are six of us here,” Harding said. “There should be 7. When we finish with today’s business and adjourn - a milestone shall have been met, and it’s not one we should celebrate.”
When the clerk took roll call and Palermo didn’t answer, it marked his third straight month of unexcused absences. Palermo is in a Wahoo, Neb., jail awaiting trial on public corruption charges. He’s been collecting a paycheck the entire time he’s been behind bars.
The council will vote next Tuesday to vacate his South Omaha seat, which will start the process of replacing him.
Omaha City Council President Pete Festersen told 6 News that he believes the replacement will be appointed by September.
Palermo, along with the other 3 defendants, has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges placed upon him. Mayor Jean Stothert says she wishes he would have just resigned to save the city and the residents of South Omaha all this trouble.
“It didn’t look good at all,” Stothert said. “You should be holding your elected officials to the highest standards. The indictment and what I found most disturbing was actually what happened. That’s a program designed to help underprivileged youth.”
Mayor Stothert is talking about the PACE program, a police athletic league designed to bridge the gap with young people through sports. The indictment alleged its donors were defrauded.
The mayor took away any city dollars that went to the program after allegations surfaced that Palermo, two retired police officers, and the chief fundraiser spent money raised for the non-profit for Latino Peace Officers Assocation in questionable ways. The LPOA started PACE in 2005. One of the retired officers who was indicted, Richie Gonzalez, had been an executive director of PACE.
Stothert went on to say Tuesday that the federal investigation isn’t yet complete and that there could be more indictments, which is her reasoning for continuing to hold back taxpayers financial support for PACE at this time.
PACE leadership told 6 News in April that the “allegations against the former executive director are about his actions and not the PACE organization.”
The federal indictment unsealed in April alleges Johnny Palermo & Richie Gonzalez defrauded LPOA and PACE for their own personal benefit. Councilman Palermo is alleged to have awarded money to both non-profits and never disclosed what he got in return.
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