A former housing and urban development officer who served under ex-President Donald Trump admitted breaking the Hatch Act while helping produce a video for the Republican National Convention, the U.S. special adviser office said on Tuesday with.
Lynne Patton, regional administrator for HUD’s activities in New York and New Jersey, agreed to accept a 48-month federal employment ban and pay a $ 1,000 fine, the federal agency said in a press release.
The terms of the settlement agreement also required Patton to admit “that she engaged in conduct that violates the prohibition of office by the Hatch Act,” the press release said.
The Hatch Act is designed to prevent certain federal employees from engaging in party political activities, but it is not always enforced. Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to Trump, was among several administrative officials accused of breaking the law on multiple occasions, but Trump declined the Office of Special Counsel’s recommendation to fire her.
In its Tuesday press release, the office said Patton abused her position to help the Trump campaign when she lived in four different affordable housing units in New York for a month in early 2019.
Patton, who lived in Manhattan’s Trump Plaza, claimed she made the decision to experience public housing firsthand after realizing it wasn’t okay with me to get the nation’s biggest housing crisis out of warmth and the convenience of my own safe and well being to direct out plumbing throughout [NYC Housing Authority] The residents continue to suffer from the most inhumane conditions. “
But during that temporary stay, Patton “met residents and later used one of those relationships to get attendees to record a video to be broadcast on the RNC,” said the Office of Special Counsel.
Patton wanted public housing residents “to appear on the video to explain how their living standards have improved under the Trump administration,” the office said.
Patton told CNN on Tuesday that she had no regrets making the video. She informed the point of sale that she had “received pre-approval and written legal advice from the HUD office of General Counsel & Ethics and followed their instructions on a ‘T'”.
“Unfortunately, after consulting with multiple Hatch Act attorneys after hiring, receiving false and / or incomplete legal advice from your own agency, even in good faith, is not a positive defense,” Patton told CNN.
Patton was previously criticized for her credentials and combative presence on social media.
She was nominated in June 2017 and served until the end of Trump’s presidency. Patton was a longtime adviser to the Trump family and had reportedly served as vice president of Eric Trump’s charitable foundation prior to her nomination.
The New York Daily News reported in 2017 that Patton claimed on her LinkedIn page that she received a degree from Quinnipiac University of Law, but the school’s registrar said she never graduated.
In mid-2019, after retweeting a message in defense of then-HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Patton wrote, “I just retweeted this amazing tweet from both of my Twitter accounts – professional and personal. It may be in violation of the Hatch Act . Might not.” Anyway, I honestly don’t care. “
The Washington Government Monitoring Group on Citizens Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) had filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel about Patton’s behavior in the production of the RNC video.
After Patton’s deal was announced, CREW President Noah Bookbinder celebrated that she had received “real consequences for outrageous wrongdoing”.
“Even in a government characterized by persistent disregard for ethics laws, Lynne Patton stood out,” Bookbinder said in a statement Tuesday.
“What made her behavior particularly egregious was that she not only used her position for political ends, but misled and exploited social housing residents for political ends. She showed little consideration for the people she was supposed to help and the rules of ethics, which she should obey, “he said.
The CREW had repeatedly accused other Trump administration officials, including the daughter and advisor to the then-President Ivanka Trump, of violating the Hatch Act.