Being a responsible adult means fulfilling certain obligations — basic, common-sense duties that are known to everyone. If you rent an apartment, you meet the monthly payment. If you buy a vehicle, you make sure to get proper insurance. And every year, you file your tax return, no exceptions.
And yet, filing his federal taxes is exactly what Omaha City Councilman Vinny Palermo failed to do — and it wasn’t a one-time occurrence. The IRS received no federal income tax filings from Palermo regarding his tree-trimming business in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Such a failure is a federal crime. Palermo pleaded guilty in September to the three misdemeanor counts. Under federal sentencing guidelines, he could have been sentenced to up to 12 months in prison. This week U.S. District Judge Brian Buescher was more lenient. He sentenced Palermo, a first-term City Council member representing South Omaha, to four years of federal probation.
In addition, Palermo will have to pay a $35,000 fine, on top of the $21,209 he has already paid in restitution. The sentencing also mandates that he perform 120 hours of community service.
How Palermo, who previously served on the Omaha Public Schools board, could have thought he needn’t file taxes on his business, year after year, defies credibility. The gross income of the business, after all, was considerable: $145,434 in 2012; $220,400 in 2013; $129,612 in 2014.
Palermo’s actions are, of course, far below the standard needed for public service in Omaha. In the wake of his sentencing, he should have signaled a measure of contrition by voluntarily giving up his vice president’s position on the City Council. He didn’t. His decision to retain that post smacks of arrogance and undercuts his claim to accept responsibility for his actions. His behavior in the matter disrespects the public and his fellow city leaders.
Palermo says that he won’t resign from office and that he intends to run for reelection in 2021.
Any responsible adult has a clear obligation to fulfill his tax obligations. For a member of the City Council to neglect that duty for years on end raises serious concern for however long Palermo continues to serve in office.