An Omaha City Councilmember, a former Omaha police officer and a fundraiser will remain in jail until their trial, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Vinny Palermo, retired Omaha Police Capt. Rich Gonzalez and Jack Olson will remain in federal custody as they await trial on several counts of fraud, conspiracy and abusing the public trust. Johnny Palermo, no relation to the councilmember, was also denied pre-trial release earlier this week. The four were arrested on April 21 after a grand jury indicted them on April 19.

“Based on the grand jury’s findings, the court finds Defendant’s release poses a serious risk of obstruction or attempted obstruction of justice, and of actual or attempted intimidation of witnesses,” wrote. U.S. Magistrate Judge Chery Zwart.

Members of the Omaha City Council again called on Palermo to resign and Council President Pete Festersen said he would be discussing the matter with Palermo himself.

“This is a very concerning situation and it is difficult to see how Councilmember Palermo can continue to serve under these circumstances,” he wrote. “I will be discussing this situation with him when that is possible.”

Earlier this week the council removed Palermo from committees as well as his role as vice president of the council, which would have put him third in line to be mayor of the city if both Mayor Jean Stothert and Council President Festersen were not in Omaha. However, the council cannot remove a member, per Omaha City Charter. Section 2.05 of the City Charter states a council member forfeits their position if they’re absent from the body for three consecutive calendar months.

Palermo’s detention until his trial should make his involvement in the body a non-issue, Councilmember Brinker Harding said in a statement. And while there is currently a recall effort underway, Harding said it’d be more efficient and cost-effective for the council to fill his role. After a member resigns, members from that district can apply. The remaining members of the council then choose the district’s replacement.

“…each district deserves to have equal representation on all matters concerning the City,” Harding said. “Therefore, I feel it is incumbent upon Vinny Palermo to immediately resign from the Omaha City Council.”

Chris Bowling

Chris has worked for The Reader since January 2020. As an investigative reporter and news editor he’s taken deep dives into topics such as police transparency, affordable housing and COVID-19. Originally...

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