Edited by TJVNews.com
A former federal official admitted she abused her authority in a publicity stunt that tricked New York City public housing residents into sounding supportive of former President Donald Trump, ethics oversight officials said Tuesday, according to an AP report.
The admission by Lynne Patton came as part of a civil settlement with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel that bars Patton from holding a federal job for four years and imposes a $1,000 fine.
AP reported that Patton “improperly harnessed the authority of her federal position to assist the Trump campaign in violation of the Hatch Act,” said a statement released by the special counsel office.
Patton had repeatedly denied she misled the housing residents.
As an administrator for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Patton got permission to live in public housing run by the New York City Housing Authority to draw attention to living conditions there, as was reported by AP.
She used her access to do interviews with residents that were edited into a video — shown at the Republican National Convention — in a way designed to credit Trump for improving the conditions while slamming New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, according to the AP report.
Some residents later told The New York Times that were never told their comments would be showcased in such a manner. One insisted: “I am not a Trump supporter.”
The nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington responded by filing a complaint against Patton.
CNN reported that this is not the first time Patton has been reprimanded by OSC over a Hatch Act violation.
In September 2019, Patton was issued a warning letter by OSC for violating the Hatch Act’s prohibition of certain political activities by federal employees after an investigation found that she had “liked” four partisan political tweets from her official Twitter account following a complaint from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The investigation also found that she displayed a red “USA” campaign hat in her HUD office, but neither Patton nor HUD ethics counsel had realized then President-Donald Trump’s campaign was selling the hat until after the allegation was made public, according to the CNN report. Patton removed the hat from display when she became aware it was an item sold by the campaign, the letter said.
CNN reported that she was advised that if she violates the act again it will be considered a willful and knowing violation of the law and could result in further action, according to the letter.
(AP & CNN)