First steps taken to recall Omaha City Councilman Vinny Palermo

The councilman representing southeast Omaha has been in federal court facing federal charges including wire fraud.
Questions have been raised over what could happen to Vinny Palermo's seat in light of the federal indictment.
Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 4:03 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - While the councilman representing southeast Omaha has been in federal court facing nine felony counts including wire fraud, a concerned voter in his district has started the recall process — and the clock is ticking.

Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse told 6 News on Wednesday that a registered voter filed the petition form Tuesday to remove Vinny Palermo from the Omaha City Council. Incidentally, another county voter came in after the filing to do the same thing, but found the process had already been started.

Also on Tuesday, the Omaha City Council voted 5-0, with one member abstaining, to temporarily remove Palermo from the office of vice president after he was indicted on nine felony fraud counts.


In the next five days, the Election Commission will notify Palermo of the petition. He then has 20 days to submit a defense statement, and the process continues from there, potentially putting Palermo’s council seat in the hands of District 4 voters.

In this case, 35% of the voters registered for the last general election would need to sign the recall petition in 30 days in order for it to be successful. There were 7,034 voters at the time of the 2021 race, so that means it would take 2,462 signatures to trigger a recall vote. After that, the county has 15 days to verify the petition signatures.

At that time, if enough signatures were collected, the elected official can resign — or a recall election would need to be scheduled within 50-80 days. If voted out in a recall election, it’s effective immediately, at which point the City Council would appoint a replacement for the district.

In the April 2021 primary, Palermo had three opponents:

  • Becky Barrientos-Patlan, who addressed the City Council on Tuesday during public comment on the rescinding of Palermo’s vice presidency, received 1,417 votes
  • Ben Cass received 936 votes
  • Sarah Smolen received 931 votes

The incumbent city councilman won the primary with 2,927 votes.

The process could take months — and may end up being moot if the judge keeps Palermo locked up: He would be automatically removed from the City Council for failing to show up in three months’ time. He has been in the Saunders County Jail since Friday, when he was arrested after being indicted by a federal grand jury, along with two retired Omaha Police officers and the chief fundraiser of LPOA Omaha.

In the meantime, if Palermo is recalled by the voters of his district, that would take effect immediately, at which point the City Council would vote to name a new member to replace his vacant seat.


Several people have already called on Palermo to resign. Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert called for his resignation on Friday after his arrest was made public.

On Tuesday, the Nebraska Democratic Party called for the same, with the Douglas County GOP following suit on Wednesday.

“The Democratic Party believes voters deserve elected officials that are focused on the concerns of the community. We thank Council President Festersen and the majority of council members for acting quickly to remove Palmero from his leadership and committee assignments. It is our hope and expectation that Councilman Vinny Palermo will resign so the Council can take the next steps in appointing a qualified Nebraskan to represent District 4. Whether it is Trump, Fortenberry, or now Palermo, indicted elected officials and politicians should focus on their legal issues and either resign or not run for re-election.”

Nebraska Democratic Party

“The DCRP applauds the five members of the Omaha City Council who voted to remove Councilman Palermo as Vice Chairman after he was named in a federal indictment for the misuse of funds. Now he needs to fully resign so the residents of the 4th District can have representation on the council.

This is a blight on our city and calls into question any votes he may have taken as a councilman, and any future votes he may take. How can someone misuse funds intended to help at-risk youth and still sleep soundly at night? Does he have no conscience?

We call on Councilman Palermo to do the right thing and resign immediately, so the citizens of his district — his neighbors — can have fair and equal representation on the Omaha City Council.”

Douglas County Republican Party
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