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 advisors office said on Tuesday with.
Lynne Patton, regional administrator for HUD's New York and New Jersey operations, 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 contrary to 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 City 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 that it was wrong for me to take the country's biggest housing crisis out of the heat and routing out the comfort of my own safe and wellbeing plumbing while residents of the NYC Housing Authority continue to suffer in 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 air 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 Tuesday that she had no regrets making the video. She announced to 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, a longtime adviser to the Trump family, was reportedly vice president of Eric Trump's charitable foundation prior to her appointment.
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 – professionally and personally. It could be a violation of the Hatch Act. May 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 marked 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 was not only using her position for political ends, but misleading social housing residents and exploiting them for political ends. She showed little consideration for the people she was supposed to help and the rules of ethics, which they should have followed, "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.