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Ex-Palmdale mayor pleads guilty to perjury in no-show job corruption scandal

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Former Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford pleaded guilty to a single count of perjury Thursday, ending a years-long probe of a pay-to-play scandal where he was accused of raking in $500,000 from consultants who he then helped attain lucrative contracts with the high desert city.

Ledford, 68, faced several years in prison on charges of conspiracy, perjury and using his official position for personal gain after investigators from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office executed search warrants at his home and office in 2017.

Under the terms of the plea, Ledford was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay roughly $189,000 in restitution, prosecutors said. Ledford, who had been mayor of Palmdale since 1992, lost a re-election bid in 2018, ending a nearly three-decade political career in the city..

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Calls to his defense attorney seeking comment were not immediately returned.

Prosecutors said Ledford raked in $5,200 per month over the course of several years from an alleged “no-show job” with Complex Culture Change Consulting. The head of the firm, Susan Miller, was also the executive director of the AERO Institute in Palmdale, a company that at one point leased property from the city for $1 per year.

Miller, 68, and Kimberly Anne Shaw, 61, who also helped run the AERO Institute, were charged with conspiracy, embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds. 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.

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Shaw pleaded guilty to a tax code violation last January, according to court records, and Miller pleaded guilty to a single count of misappropriating public funds. Both were sentenced to three years probation.

Ledford was also accused of failing to disclose income he made from the AERO Institute, which was receiving more than $2 million in annual funding from NASA. Prosecutors said the government agency has received $1.8 million in restitution, drawn from funds seized from the AERO Institute as part of the investigation.

The investigation was sparked, in part, by a long-running feud between Ledford and R. Rex Parris, the mayor or nearby Lancaster. Parris deposed Ledford as part of a 2013 lawsuit filed by a civil rights group aimed at forcing Palmdale to shift its City Council elections from an at-large model to one that awarded seats by district, part of a statewide push to elect more nonwhite candidates.

During the deposition, Parris grilled Ledford about the specifics of his job with Miller’s consulting firm. The then-Palmdale mayor repeatedly struggled to describe any work he did or provide a timeline of hours he worked for the firm during the deposition.

“This case illustrates that some public officials are willing to deceive the public for their own greed,” Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said in a statement. “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.”

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Times staff writer Ben Oreskes contributed to this report.

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