An Omaha inner-city youth sports program, rocked by a City Hall scandal, is once again getting its hands on city money.

After months of no city cash Omaha city officials have now OK’d new funding for PACE, Police Athletics for Community Engagement.

But the money comes with strings, strings that find some critics all but accusing city officials of racism. 


PACE Website Video: “How do you improve the quality of life for the entire city? Here’s a proven program for 16 years, 31,000 kids.”

PACE, an inner-city non-profit aimed at keeping kids, largely Black and Hispanic, in sports and out of trouble, is back in the game at City Hall, but it hasn’t come easy.

Mayor Jean Stothert, Omaha (R): “Criminal actions of former leaders of this organization and the lengthy FBI investigation disparaged what has been a commendable community program and it required me to suspend our financial support.”

Stothert and a unanimous city council now shelling out $50,000 to PACE with more money possible, Stothert recently writing that “PACE has taken significant steps to reform the organization,” including new board members and “an outside firm was hired to oversee PACE’s accounting.”

The money, bringing complaints.

Ben Salazar, South Omaha Community Activist: “$50,000 maybe for these guys down in South Omaha. That's a slap in the face.”

But that was just the beginning. 

Ana Hernandez: "The board does not represent the community.”

January 2023

Joe Jordan, NCN: “Mr. Palermo can I ask you a few questions?”

The PACE related scandal included former Omaha City Councilman Vinny Palermo, now in federal prison following what prosecutors called a scheme to defraud taxpayers. According to the government, central to the scheme along with Palermo were two former Omaha Police officers Rich Gonzalez, a top man at PACE and Johnny Palermo. Gonzalez and Palermo, also in prison, PACE fundraiser Jack Olson still awaiting trial, as PACE rebuilds, and the fight intensifies.

Mark Martinez, former U.S. Marshall Nebraska/Former Omaha Deputy Police Chief: “I also met with the PACE board of directors chairperson to discuss the future of PACE and leadership but to no avail.”

The new PACE board, four members so far, nine in all possible, is led by Sports Commission Executive Director Lindsay Toussant.

Lindsay Toussant, Executive Director Omaha Sports Commission: “We are providing as many opportunities as possible for the kids we are serving because the kids are our focus right now.”

Ben Salazar: “The Omaha Sports Commission is 95 percent white. How in the heck did they get a contract to run a Hispanic organization?”

Mark Martinez: “I attempted to meet with the mayor, mayor you wouldn’t want to meet with me. Why I don't know.” 

Ben Salazar: “How does the mayor have the audacity to come in and ethnic clean this whole program?”

But even South Omaha Councilman Ron Hug applauded the mayor, adding this:

Councilman Ron Hug (D): “It’s about the kids, it’s not about who the board members are. It’s not about whether we’re getting money. It’s about providing the services to the kids.”

In addition, Republican City Councilman Brinker Harding applauded the idea that PACE be rebranded, a new name to replace what many see as a permanently tarnished name.