By Meghan Imperio
PALMDALE — Former Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford faces several years in prison for perjury, conspiracy, and receiving money illegally by using his position for personal gain. Last Thursday, he pleaded guilty to perjury.
On April 22, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office released a statement confirming that Ledford pleaded guilty to lying about the income he received illegally. The statement opens by describing the charge, to which the LA County District Attorney, George Gascón responded.
“This case illustrates that some public officials are willing to deceive the public for their own greed,” said Gascón.
Ledford was charged with two co-defendants, Kimberly Anne Shaw and Susan Burgess Miller. The press release states that they were “both accused of using shell companies to pay Ledford several thousand dollars a month to receive favorable treatment by them.”
According to the LA Times, Shaw and Miller were charged with conspiracy, embezzlement, and misappropriation of public funds.
Miller was the executive director of the AERO Institute in Palmdale and ran the institute with the help of Shaw, who was also a consultant for the city of Palmdale.
The statement also reveals that Miller operated a consulting company that hired Ledford in 2009 known as Complex Culture Change Consulting.
Since the investigation, Shaw pleaded guilty to one felony count of a violation of tax code in January, after filing a false tax return. She was sentenced to three years of probation.
The LA County District Attorney’s statement reveals that “Miller pleaded guilty to one felony count of misappropriation of public funds in January 2020 and was sentenced to formal probation for three years.”
The LA Times article goes on to describe that “Prosecutors alleged the AERO Institute funneled payments to Ledford through Miller’s consulting firm. In the same time frame, prosecutors alleged that Ledford helped Shaw—who was already a consultant with the city—secure a multimillion-dollar contract from the Palmdale City Council.”
Every month, AERO Institute paid the consulting firm more than $13,000, with Ledford receiving $5,200 of that money every month over the course of several years.
However, the press release describes that “Ledford did not perform any substantive work for AERO Institute and did not report the income he received from AERO Institute on economic disclosure statements.”
AERO Institute was also receiving more than $2 million a year for annual funding from NASA, which has since received $1.8 million in restitution from the funds that were seized from AERO Institute during an investigation provoked by the mayor of Lancaster, Rex Parris, who had a longstanding feud with the former mayor, Ledford.
The trio have been under investigation for years after Ledford testified in a 2013 lawsuit. The lawsuit aimed at pushing the state to elect more diverse candidates by shifting the City Council elections model to one which awards seats based on each district.
During the deposition, led by Parris, Ledford was unable to articulate his specific duties with Miller’s consulting firm, as well as an estimated timeline of the hours he worked for the firm.
After years of investigation, Ledford’s office and home were raided in May 2017. He was later charged with conspiracy and three counts of perjury. At the time, Ledford was serving his 13th term as Mayor of Palmdale.
Although Ledford faced felony charges due to his involvement in Shaw’s and Miller’s businesses, Ledford ran for his 14th term as mayor in 2018. Ledford lost to the current mayor of Palmdale, Steve Hofbauer.
Despite being charged in June 2017, Ledford did not plead guilty until he was due in court this week, on April 22nd. This comes after Ledford pleaded not guilty in February 2021 to all five felony counts.
In February, CBSLA stated that if Ledford was found guilty during his trial in April, he would face up to four years in prison, but after pleading guilty on Thursday, Ledford was only sentenced to two years of probation as well as paying $189,000 in restitution as part of the statement by LA County District Attorney points out a longstanding problem with corruption in government.
Gascón concluded: “I want to commend our investigators and prosecutors for their diligent work to uncover this scheme. It is imperative that we all work together to have a clean government.”
Meghan Imperio is a writer for the LA Vanguard’s social justice desk. She is an English major at UCLA, originally from Glendale, CA.
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