Five felony charges were filed this week against Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford, who’s accused of 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 Wednesday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom, but his arraignment on one count each of conspiracy to commit a crime and conflict of interest and three counts of perjury by declaration was postponed until July 26.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Hanasono set Ledford’s bail at $75,000, which the 63-year-old mayor was expected to post.
“As everybody knows in the United States of America, even politicians… are entitled to the presumption of innocence,” Ledford’s attorney, Anthony Falangetti, told reporters outside court. “At this point no evidence has been presented. All we have is accusations and those accusations have been filed in court, that’s all we know. So … we will find out the truth over time as evidence is taken, but until that time my client, of course, is presumed innocent.”
Ledford’s attorney said his client has “dutifully served the city,” telling reporters that Palmdale has seen “positive growth, a number of things that have benefited the city, including the subject matter of the charges, the AERO Institute.”
“My client has consistently been above board with his involvement both in that and in other projects with the city,” Falangetti said.
Also charged along with Ledford are Kimberly Anne Shaw, 61, of Yorba Linda, and Susan Burgess Miller, 68, of Las Vegas, who are facing one count each of conspiracy, embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds. It was unclear when Shaw and Miller 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, doing business as Complex Culture Change Consulting, hired Ledford in August 2009 as a consultant at or around the same time the AERO Institute began paying CCCC nearly all of its monthly income, the criminal complaint alleges.
AERO Institute paid Miller’s consulting firm more than $13,000 a month over ia four-year period, and the company, in turn, paid Ledford the $5,200 monthly sum, though he did not perform any substantive work for AERO Institute during that time period, the District Attorney’s Office alleges.
The criminal complaint alleges that Ledford “willfully made or influenced a contract in which he knew he had an indirect financial interest” when he voted in favor of a seven-year contract between the city of Palmdale and Shaw, but that he “failed to disclose that he was indirectly receiving substantial income from AERO Institute, a company controlled by defendant Kimberly Shaw.”
Ledford is also accused of “knowingly, intentionally and deliberately” failing to disclose on economic disclosure statements in 2015, 2016 and 2017 “that he had received substantial income the preceding year from AERO Institute, a business with which the city of Palmdale had a contract for rent and other services.”
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office received a citizen’s letter of complaint in July 2013, according to the criminal complaint.
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.