Former Trump HUD official Lynne Patton has been barred from federal employment for two years and must pay a $1,000 fine for violating the Hatch Act, which limits the political activities of federal employees.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) on Tuesday announced that Patton has been disciplined after she “improperly harnessed the authority of her federal position to assist the Trump campaign in violation of the Hatch Act” when she served as HUD regional administrator and produced a video for last year’s Republican National Convention, The Hill reports.
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The video featured residents of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) speaking about their living conditions but Patton reportedly failed to tell them that the footage would be used for political purposes.
“During her approximately one-month stay, Patton met residents and later leveraged one of these relationships to recruit participants to film a video that would air at the RNC. Patton wanted NYCHA residents to appear in the video to explain how their standard of living had improved under the Trump administration,” the OSC said in a news release.
“By using information and NYCHA connections available to her solely by virtue of her HUD position, Patton improperly harnessed the authority of her federal position to assist the Trump campaign in violation of the Hatch Act,” the statement continued.
Patton has rejected the accusation that the residents were “tricked.”
“And yes, I received advance permission and written legal guidance from the HUD Office of the General Counsel & Ethics and followed their instructions to a ‘T,’ which can be confirmed by over 4 hours of independent audio and video,” she said in an email to CNN Tuesday. “Unfortunately, after consulting multiple Hatch Act lawyers post-employment, receiving incorrect and/or incomplete legal advice, even in good faith, from your own agency does not an affirmative defense make.”
She previously told The New York Times that the participants interviewed in the video were not misled about the purpose of the project.
“Each participated regardless of political party because they recognized the importance of having a voice on the national stage and the undeniable improvements that have transpired under this administration,” Patton said of the video in August of 2020.
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Meanwhile, CNN commentator Keith Boykin noted on Twitter that while Patton “clearly violated the Hatch Act, so did Kellyane Conway, Ivanka Trump, and nearly everyone else in the Trump administration. So Why is the Black woman the only one being punished?” he wrote.
Noah Bookbinder of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said Patton “deserves accountability and deserves to be barred from federal employment.”
“Even in an administration marked by a callous disregard for ethics laws, Lynne Patton stood out,” Bookbinder said in a statement. “What made her behavior particularly egregious was that she not only used her position for political purposes, she misled and exploited public housing residents for political gain, showing little regard for the people she was supposed to be helping and the ethics rules she was supposed to be following.”
As part of her settlement with the OSC, Patton received a $1,000 civil fine and can not work as a federal employee for 48 months.
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