A former top federal housing official in New York under President Donald J. Trump admitted on Tuesday that she violated federal rules over her role in creating a pro-Trump re-election video featuring public housing tenants that was shown last year at the Republican National Convention.
The official, Lynne Patton, will not serve in federal government for at least the next four years and will pay a $1,000 fine as part of an agreement with the federal agency that investigates violations of the Hatch Act. The act bars most federal employees from using their government position to engage in political activities.
The video, which was broadcast on the final night of the Republican National Convention, featured four New Yorkers who live in public housing who appeared to support Mr. Trump.
But the day after it aired, three of the tenants told The New York Times that Ms. Patton had recruited them to appear in the video and tricked them into believing that it would focus on problems at the New York City Housing Authority, the city’s public housing agency.
“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,’’ the Office of Special Counsel, the agency that enforces the Hatch Act, said in a statement.
Ms. Patton, who had previously said the White House had given her permission to produce the video, said in an email on Tuesday that she did not regret having created it.
“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,” Ms. Patton wrote.
Claudia Perez, one of the four tenants who appeared in the video, said on Tuesday that Ms. Patton should have received more severe punishment. “I don’t think it was stern enough,” she said.
The video was not the first time that Ms. Patton was found to have run afoul of the Hatch Act. In 2019, the Office of Special Counsel found that she violated the law when she displayed a Trump campaign hat in her New York office and for “liking” political tweets.
At the time of the video, Ms. Patton was the 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 at the Trump Organization.
After the video was broadcast, several federal watchdog groups, including the Campaign for Accountability, filed complaints with the Office of Special Counsel urging an investigation into her role in the production of the video.
In a statement, Michelle Kuppersmith, the executive director of the Campaign for Accountability, described Ms. Patton as a repeat offender of the Hatch Act and said she was pleased that the special counsel had followed up on the complaint.
“Laws like the Hatch Act exist for a reason and we hope this sends a message to other officials that violating the law has consequences.” she said.
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