Palmdale Mayor Charged with Conspiracy, Conflict of Interest

If convicted as charged, Ledford could face up to four years and eight months in state prison

Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford was charged Wednesday with illegally receiving more than $60,000 a year from local consultants and failing to publicly disclose the income on economic disclosure statements.

Ledford -- who was elected to his 13th two-year term as Palmdale's mayor last November -- appeared in court in downtown Los Angeles, but his arraignment on one felony count each of conspiracy and conflict of interest and three counts of perjury was postponed until July 26.

His bail was set at $75,000, which Ledford was expected to post.

Co-defendants Kimberly Anne Shaw, 61, of Yorba Linda, and Susan Burgess Miller, 68, of Las Vegas, are charged with one count each of conspiracy, embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds. It was unclear when they would be arraigned.

Shaw has been a consultant for the city of Palmdale for the past two decades, and with Miller's assistance operates the AERO Institute, which gets more than $2 million annually from NASA and has paid a $1 annual lease to Palmdale since 2004, according to the District Attorney's Office.

The criminal complaint alleges that the defendants utilized various shell companies to pay Ledford about $5,200 a month.

Miller ran a company, Complex Culture Change Consulting, and hired Ledford in 2009, according to the District Attorney's Office.

AERO Institute paid Miller's consulting firm more than $13,000 a month over a four-year period, and the company, in turn, allegedly paid Ledford $5,200 a month. Prosecutors allege that Ledford did not perform any substantive work for AERO Institute during that time period.

Ledford allegedly failed to reveal that he was indirectly receiving income from AERO Institute when the Palmdale City Council voted in January 2012 to boost Shaw's consultant contract to an amount not to exceed $3.9 million over seven years.

Ledford, 63, is also accused of failing to report the income he received from AERO Institute on economic disclosure statements in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

If convicted as charged, Ledford could face up to four years and eight months in state prison and Shaw and Miller could each face up to four years behind bars, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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