Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Feds: Sheriff violated Hatch Act by flying Trump flag (Washington Post, Oswego County News Now)

Good action by U.S. Office of Special Counsel.   Of interest to St. Johns County Sheriff  -- there were frequent Hatch Act violations by disgraced ex-Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, who legally changed his name from "HOAR" in 1994.  And the new Sheriff, once appeared in SABPD uniform at a TRUMP CLUB function,

To dull Repubicans who disgrace the uniform with partisan activities -- knock it off.

From The Washington Post and Oswego County News Now:

Sheriff who flew Trump flag on patrol boat violated ban on partisan political activity, officials say

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Feds: Sheriff violated Hatch Act by flying Trump flag

  •  Updated 
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  • Hilton: I ‘felt it necessary to take a stand’ with Trump flag (copy)
    Oswego County Sheriff Don Hilton, pictured above on a patrol boat in an August 2020 photo, was issued a warning for violating the Hatch Act, according to federal investigators, who confirmed this week that Hilton did violate the nearly century-old federal law but would not face discipline. The investigation was prompted by Hilton and sheriffs deputies flying a flag depicting former President Donald Trump and his campaign slogan "Make America Great Again" during an event described as a "Trump flotilla" on Oneida Lake last summer. 

    Hilton issued warning, but will not face discipline

    OSWEGO — Investigators say Oswego County Sheriff Don Hilton violated a federal law aimed at ensuring certain on-duty government employees act in a nonpartisan manner when the sheriff's department flew a flag in support of former President Donald Trump while patrolling Oneida Lake last summer. 

    The Oswego County Sheriff's Office marine patrol unit flew an altered American flag emblazoned with former President Trump's face and campaign slogan "Make America Great Again" during what was described as a Trump flotilla event on Oneida Lake on Aug. 2. County officials on Thursday released a statement noting the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which investigated the complaint, issued a warning to Hilton, but chose not to pursue any disciplinary action in the matter.

    "We received a letter (Thursday) in response to a complaint regarding county Sheriff Hilton's participation in a Trump flotilla campaign rally," said Oswego County Legislature Chairman James Weatherup, R-Central Square, in a statement Thursday. "The Office of Special Counsel has issued a warning letter to the sheriff and decided to close the matter without further action."

    The Hatch Act is a federal law passed in 1939 that limits certain political activities of federal employees, in addition to some state and local government employees who work in connection with federally funded programs, according to OSC. The Hatch Act is aimed at protecting the public workforce from partisan political influence and ensuring the nonpartisan administration of laws.

    The OSC said Hilton and the Oswego County Sheriff's Office are subject to the Hatch Act because the department receives federal funding for certain activities and is therefore covered by the law. A letter sent from OSC, which was sent to Hilton and obtained by The Palladium-Times, said Hilton has "duties in connection with federally funded programs," and as a result is "covered by the Hatch Act."

    "Because you used an official agency resource to promote a presidential candidate, thus giving the impression that the Oswego County Sheriff's Office endorsed that candidate, OSC determined that you violated the Hatch Act's prohibition against using your official authority to affect an election," wrote Erica S. Hamrick, a deputy chief in the OSC's Hatch Act Unit.

    OSC pointed out the Hatch Act prohibits covered employees from "using their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election." Under the provision, OSC noted an employee may not use official agency resources to engage in political activity, including appearing in campaign parades or endorsing candidates for partisan political office.

    The OSC said although Hilton violated the Hatch Act, the agency chose to "close the matter without further action," but issued a warning to the sheriff.

    "Please be advised that if you engage in any future prohibited political activity while employed in a Hatch Act-covered position, OSC would consider such activity to be a willful and knowing violation of the law that could result in disciplinary action," Hamrick wrote.

    Hilton, in a statement released by the county on Thursday, said the matter was discussed at length with Weatherup and other members of the county Legislature, and noted it would not happen in the future.

    “I have reassured the chairman and other members of the Legislature that it will not occur again,” Hilton said.

    In an August statement — issued after more than a dozen residents spoke about his actions at a county Legislature meeting — Hilton said the marine patrol unit was providing security on Oneida Lake during the Trump Flotilla event. The sheriff said he was on board the vessel when a participant handed the law enforcement officials a flag, which Hilton allowed to be flown from the patrol boat.

    “I did this to show support for the event participants and for our president, who has supported law enforcement at a time when many groups are unjustly vilifying our profession,” Hilton said. “To do so was my decision only, not my deputies’, and I take full and sole responsibility for it.”

    Hilton at the time referenced a county policy prohibiting the display of altered U.S. flags on county property but made no reference to the Hatch Act nor did he acknowledge that the perceived partisan nature of the act was an issue.

    The sheriff said he respected “the right of people to have a critical opinion” of his actions but issued a defiant response in which he implied those who were criticizing him were not thinking reasonably and claimed many of the people criticizing him “also defend rioters who destroy taxpayers’ property.” Hilton said while he stood by his personal beliefs, he did regret “that some people, veterans in particular, were uncomfortable with the display of an altered American flag,” adding “there was no disrespect intended.”

    Hilton concluded the August statement by saying he is proud of his deputies and officers and would “remain dedicated to continuing to impartially enforce the law” and keep communities safe.

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