Washington—The Office of Special Counsel referred former Trump administration HUD official Lynne Patton to the Merit Systems Protection Board for disciplinary action after she violated the Hatch Act by intentionally filming a video with New York City Housing Authority residents to air at the Republican National Convention and lying to those tenants about it, telling them the video was a nonpartisan project, according to documents obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. OSC’s investigation began with a complaint filed by CREW.
Patton approached senior officials within the Trump campaign about filming a promotional video with NYCHA residents to air at the RNC. According to OSC, Patton told NYCHA residents that the video would “highlight nonpartisan issues” about NYCHA conditions, not that it would be used for political purposes to promote President Trump’s re-election effort. Patton went so far as to invoke her official title and capacity as she interviewed residents in the video. The video prompted CREW to file a Hatch Act complaint with OSC against Patton. OSC concluded that Patton’s intent behind the video was to support then-President Trump’s re-election efforts and referred her to MSPB for disciplinary action.
“With Lynne Patton’s history of inappropriately using her official position for Donald Trump’s political benefit, we welcome OSC’s decision to refer her for further disciplinary action,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “Patton’s illegal political activity was made worse by the fact that 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.”
The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from “us[ing their] official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” “Political activity” is defined as “an activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.”
This is not the first time Patton has been found to have abused her position for political purposes. Patton had been the subject of two previous Hatch Act complaints brought by CREW, and OSC has found her guilty of violating the law multiple times. CREW’s complaints have led to an unprecedented number of Trump administration officials being reprimanded for Hatch Act violations, including Sonny Perdue, Peter Navarro, Dan Scavino, Nikki Haley, Stephanie Grisham, Raj Shah, Jessica Ditto, Madeleine Westerhout, Helen Aguirre Ferre, Alyssa Farah, Jacob Wood and Kellyanne Conway. Even in most of those instances, OSC did not refer the case for disciplinary action. The finding of repeated violations and the referral for action demonstrate the severity of Patton’s misconduct.
“The Trump administration systematically co-opted the powers of the government to try to secure Donald Trump’s reelection, but Lynne Patton is now the third senior Trump administration official that OSC has referred for disciplinary action for illegally using their position for political purposes,” said Bookbinder. “This is what accountability looks like.”