NEW YORK (AP) — 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.
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.
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.
The Hatch Act is designed to ensure that the work of federal civil servants is not influenced by political motivations.
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.
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.
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.
“It is gratifying to see real consequences for outrageous misconduct,” the group’s president, Noah Bookbinder, said Tuesday.
In a statement to The Washington Post on Tuesday, Patten continued to praise the Trump administration and her “amazing HUD team” for their work on public housing. She claimed she had permission from the HUD general counsel for her actions and “followed their directives to a T.”