Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert weighed in for the first time Wednesday on Councilman Vinny Palermo’s guilty plea for not filing his income taxes.
Stothert said it was up to Palermo and South Omaha voters to decide the councilman’s political fate. She noted that only the council has the ability to remove one of its members, not the mayor, under the Omaha City Charter.
“It is Councilman Palermo’s responsibility to address his recent plea to federal charges of willful failure to file income tax returns, and his decision to remain,” she said. “The Omaha City Charter does not give the mayor of Omaha the authority to take action to remove Mr. Palermo from his elected position on the council.”
The City Charter allows the City Council to remove a fellow member if it decides that a member has been convicted of a crime that violates the member’s oath of office.
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Palermo said Tuesday: “Absolutely, I will not resign.” He also described his tax case as “an administrative matter.”
Voters could petition to remove Palermo from office. They would need about 3,000 signatures from registered voters in his South Omaha district to trigger a recall election, Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse has said.
The office had received no formal requests for petitions as of Wednesday afternoon.
No members of the council have addressed Palermo’s plea agreement. City Council President Chris Jerram declined to comment on the mayor’s statement Wednesday.
Palermo admitted in court Monday to failing to file income tax returns for 2012, 2013 and 2014, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.
As part of his plea deal, prosecutors agreed to not pursue any charges related to his tax returns in 2015 or 2016.
His lawyer, James Martin Davis, said Palermo filed his tax forms more than two years ago and has spent the past several months negotiating the amount of money he owed. He agreed to pay $21,209.
Palermo’s sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 6. He could face up to a year in prison on each count, along with fines of up to $100,000, as well as a year of supervised release.
Davis has said he expects Palermo to serve no prison time.