This story originally appeared in El Perico.

This story was updated Thursday to include the updated recall petition filing form.

A South Omaha resident has filed for a petition to recall Omaha City Council member Vinny Palermo, who was arrested Friday and faces nine felony fraud charges, including allegedly steering $93,000 worth of city contracts towards his companies and accepting gifts and free trips in exchange for political favors.

Jonathan Rentería, a community organizer and South Omaha resident, submitted a request to the Douglas County Election Commission on Tuesday morning to collect voters’ signatures to hold a recall election to oust Palermo from his councilmember position.

Palermo represents District 4, primarily South Omaha, on the seven-member council and has served the area for the past six years. The petition will need at least 2,462 signatures of voters in Palermo’s district for a recall election to occur, according to a spokesperson at the election commission office.

Rentería submitted an updated form to the Douglas County Election Commission on Thursday morning with a revised statement for his request for the councilman’s recall.

“We, the voters of District 4, demand the immediate recall of Councilman Vinny Palermo for failing to uphold the trust of his constituents by violating his probation, abusing his power for personal gain, and being charged with nine felony counts,” the updated form obtained by El Perico reads.

The Douglas County Election Commission office now has five days to notify Palermo that he’s being recalled. Once notified, Palermo will have 20 days to submit a statement of defense.

Rentería told El Perico Palermo’s conduct “shows a pattern of disrespect for the community he represents.” The South Omaha resident is pursuing a recall election of Palermo to ensure District 4 residents have someone representing them in City Council.

“I want to make sure we have a representative at all times,” Rentería told El Perico in a phone call Tuesday. “There is money potentially being taken from South Omaha without representation.”

The process to get a recall election could take up to 90 days, Rentería said.

The office will produce the petition paperwork for Rentería, the principal circulator of the petition, as soon as Palermo shares his defense statement.

Once Rentería obtains the petition, he will have 30 days to gather at least 2,462 signatures — or 35 percent of the 7,034 votes for District 4 leadership in 2021 — to constitute a recall election. Rentería said he is already speaking with other residents who’ve expressed interest in collecting signatures.

If the petition garners enough signatures, then voters will have the chance to elect Palermo out of office, Rentería said.

“It’s not up to me to make this happen, it’s up to everyone else to say they want a vote,” he said.

Palermo faces charges along with retired Omaha Police Capt. Rich Gonzalez, retired officer Johnny Palermo (no relation to the councilman) and Jack Olson. The latter three, named in a separate indictment, allegedly defrauded the Latino Peace Officers Association (LPOA), an organization for Latino police in Omaha, and Police Athletics for Community Engagement (PACE), a youth sports organization run by law enforcement.

Johnny Palermo pled “not guilty” Monday in federal court Monday and the judge ordered him held until trial; the other three indicted, including councilman Vinny Palermo, remain in custody until their continued hearings Wednesday.

Mayor Jean Stothert called on the councilman to resign following his indictment Friday.

At an Omaha City Council meeting Tuesday, councilmembers voted to temporarily remove councilmember Palermo as the council vice president. However, the Omaha City Charter does not give the body the power to remove members. Palermo will only lose his seat if he is convicted, misses three calendar months of meetings or resigns.

If a recall election occurs and is successful, the elected official must resign and a replacement must be found, either by appointment or by special election. If the recall election is unsuccessful, the elected official retains their position and cannot be subject to another recall attempt for at least 12 months, according to the Douglas County Election Commission website.

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Bridget Fogarty is a Report for America Corps member reporting with The Reader and its billingual (Spanish/English) sister publication El Perico.

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