A former senior federal housing official in New York City under President Donald J. Trump admitted on Tuesday she violated federal rules over her role in creating a pro-Trump re-election video featuring tenants in housing social media that aired last year at the Republican National Convention.
The official, Lynne Patton, will not serve in the federal government for at least the next four years and will be fined $ 1,000 as part of a deal with the federal agency investigating violations of the Hatch Act. Most federal employees are prohibited by law from using their government position to engage in political activities.
The video, which aired on the last night of the Republican National Convention, featured four New Yorkers living in public housing and appearing to support Mr. Trump.
But the day after it aired, three of the tenants told the New York Times that Ms Patton recruited them to appear in the video and tricked them into believing he would focus on New York City Housing Authority issues. , the public of the city. housing agency.
“ By using the NYCHA information and connections available only under his HUD position, Patton abused the authority of his federal position to aid the Trump campaign, ” said the Office of the Special Advisor, the agency that applies the Hatch Act. in a report.
Ms Patton, who previously said the White House gave her permission to produce the video, said in an email Tuesday that she did not regret making it.
“Unfortunately, after consulting with several Hatch Act attorneys after employment, receiving incorrect and / or incomplete legal advice, even in good faith, from your own agency does not constitute an affirmative defense,” Ms. Patton wrote.
Claudia Perez, one of four tenants who appeared in the video, said on Tuesday Ms Patton should have received a harsher penalty. “I don’t think it was harsh enough,” she said.
The video was not the first time Ms Patton had violated the Hatch Act. In 2019, the Office of the Special Advisor found that she had broken the law by displaying a Trump campaign hat in her New York office and “liking” political tweets.
At the time of the video, Ms Patton was an administrator for the New York region in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and had some oversight of the city’s public housing agency. Ms Patton joined the federal agency after working as a personal assistant for Mr Trump’s family and the Trump organization.
After the video was released, several federal watch groups, including the Campaign for Accountability, filed complaints with the Office of the Special Advocate asking for an investigation into its role in producing the video.
In a statement, Michelle Kuppersmith, the Executive Director of the Campaign for Accountability, described Ms Patton as a repeat Hatch Law offender and said she was happy that the special advocate had acted on the complaint.
“Laws like the Hatch Law exist for a reason and we hope this sends a message to other officials that breaking the law has consequences.” she says.