Lynne Patton, a close associate of former President Donald Trump, is being fined and locked out of any positions with the federal government for the next four years. The former aide is facing the aforementioned penalties for mixing her work at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development with her role on the Trump re-election campaign, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
The government body released a statement saying Patton “admitted to violating the Hatch Act by using her official position to produce a video about housing conditions for the Republican National Convention.”
“As a HUD employee, Patton received permission in early 2019 to temporarily live in and observe living conditions in the New York City Housing Authority. During her approximately one-month stay, Patton met residents and later leveraged one of these relationships to recruit participants to film a video that would air at the RNC,” the government body said in a statement.
“Patton wanted NYCHA residents to appear in the video to explain how their standard of living had improved under the Trump administration. 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 in violation of the Hatch Act,” the statement added.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel fined Patton $1,000 and said she agreed to a 4-year ban from federal employment.
Patton was a controversial figure within the Trump administration. The 48-year-old was a longtime party planner for the Trump family, serving as Eric Trump‘s assistant and planning his wedding. She eventually secured a vice president role within the Eric Trump Foundation before making her way to the RNC stage in 2016 as one of the few Black faces in Trump’s orbit.
As one of his first acts, Trump gave her the position of White House liaison and Director of Public Liaison for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
But the decision immediately drew backlash from lawmakers because the Trump Organization owns property that gets rental subsidies from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Roll Call reported.
Despite no prior experience, Trump then moved her to the powerful position of head of Region II of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees New York and New Jersey.
Even as housing projects in both states drew headlines for disastrous management, Patton was allowed to stay in the role. She was with the administration until its final days.
According to The Washington Post, she became well known for pulling a variety of publicity stunts to embarrass Democrats in New York about the problems facing the New York City Housing Authority.
The stunt that violated the Hatch Act, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, was when Patton decided to spend one month living in a New York City Housing Authority apartment. She then used her stay to film the promotional video for the Trump campaign and the RNC.
“It was not okay for me to preside over the largest housing crisis in the nation from the warmth and comfort of my own safe and sanitary apartment while NYCHA residents continue to suffer the most inhumane conditions,” Patton said at the time.
But when residents saw themselves in the RNC video in 2020, they were incensed, and told The New York Times that they did not realize they were participating in a Trump campaign video.
The NYCHA residents said they were not told what the video was for and that their comments were edited down to make it look like they supported Trump when they did not.
“Even in an administration marked by a callous disregard for ethics laws, Lynne Patton stood out,” said Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics President Noah Bookbinder in a statement to CNN.
What made her behavior particularly egregious was that she not only used her position for political purposes, she misled and exploited public housing residents for political gain, showing little regard for the people she was supposed to be helping and the ethics rules she was supposed to be following,” Bookbinder added.
Throughout her time in government, she repeatedly violated the Hatch Act like many other Trump officials, most notably Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway. Patton, Conway and other Trump officials routinely made political comments from their government Twitter accounts and used their positions to support some of Trump’s more outlandish positions on issues.
Trump officials made it a point to thumb their noses at the Hatch Act, often appearing on Fox News in an official capacity only to promote Trump Organization products or his reelection campaign.
A report from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel cited media reports where Conway said, “If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work. Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”
CNN contacted Patton about the fines and the ban, and she claimed in an email that it was the fault of the lawyers at the Department of Housing and Urban Development who were at fault.
“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,” Patton said, denying that she tricked the NYCHA residents into appearing in the campaign video.
“As such, I will never regret creating a Republican National Convention video that highlighted the permanent and continued improvements being made to the New York City Public Housing Authority (NYCHA) thanks to the efforts of President Trump, Secretary [Ben] Carson and myself,” Patton wrote to ABC News.