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Ledford pleads not guilty in illegal kick back case

Jim Ledford (267016)
Jim Ledford

Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford pleaded not guilty this week to five felony counts for allegedly illegally receiving more than $60,000 a year from local consultants and failing to publicly disclose the income on economic disclosure statements, along with a misdemeanor count of using an official position for personal gain.

Superior Court Judge Gustavo Sztraicher set an Oct. 3 hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to require Ledford to stand trial.

Ledford, 65, was elected to his 13th term as Palmdale’s mayor in November 2016.

He was charged in June 2017 with one count each of conspiracy to commit a crime and conflict of interest and three counts of perjury by declaration. The misdemeanor count against him was added in January.

“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 shortly after the case was filed last year. “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.”

Ledford’s attorney said his client has “dutifully served the city,” telling reporters that Palmdale has seen “positive growth, a number of things hat 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.”

Charged along with Ledford are Kimberly Anne Shaw, 62, who had been a consultant for the city of Palmdale for two decades, and Susan Burgess Miller, 70.

Shaw and Miller are charged with one felony count each of conspiracy, embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds. Shaw is also charged with four felony counts of filing a false tax return.

All three are free on $75,000 bond.

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 or CCCC, 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 a four-year period, and the company, in turn, paid Ledford $5,200 a month, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office alleges. Prosecutors allege that Ledford did not perform any substantive work for AERO Institute during that time period.

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 non-profit corporation controlled by defendant 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.”