A New York sheriff is being investigated by federal authorities for a potential violation of the Hatch Act because he flew a MAGA flag on his patrol boat during a “Flotilla for Trump” rally in August of 2020.
Oswego County Sheriff Don Hilton admitted to flying a “Make America Great Again” flag that one of the participants at the rally gave him on the government-owned patrol boat. The flag had Trump’s image on it and Hilton permitted the flag on the boat because the former president “has supported law enforcement at a time when many groups are unjustly vilifying our profession,” according to Syracuse.com.
Photos show Hilton and three uniformed deputies aboard a sheriff’s office Marine Patrol boat flying the MAGA flag.
Oswego County has been in an uproar over the incident and a number of residents have attacked Hilton for the move.
(Video Credit: NewsChannel 9 WSYR Syracuse)
The Palladium-Times reported on the alleged violation of the Hatch Act:
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 [the U.S. Office of Special Counsel]. 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.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel warned in a letter that Sheriff Hilton will face disciplinary action if he does anything political like that again.
“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,” Erica Hamrick, the deputy chief of the Hatch Act Unit, stated.
For his part, Hilton has vowed not to violate the Hatch Act ever again. “I have reassured the chairman and other members of the Legislature that it will not occur again,” he promised.
Oswego County Legislature Chairman Jim Weatherup said in a statement on Thursday that the OSC was closing the case without any disciplinary action at this time, the Palladium-Times reported.
“We received a letter today in response to a complaint regarding county Sheriff Hilton’s participation in a Trump flotilla campaign rally,” Weatherup said. “The Office of Special Counsel has issued a warning letter to the sheriff and decided to close the matter without further action.”
Hilton did state last year, however, that the incident has inspired him to “be even more vocal about the unjust and hypocritical criticism of police by anti-democracy groups and certain politicians who pander to them.”
“I will do so on my own time, on my own dime… and as loudly as I can!” Hilton vowed.
“I respect the right of people to have a critical opinion of what I did — this is America after all, and freedom of speech is part of what the flag stands for. But let’s keep a clear-headed perspective here: I flew a political flag on taxpayers’ property, yet many of the people criticizing me for that also defend rioters who destroy taxpayers’ property!” Hilton pointed out.
“Is it a sign of people thinking reasonably when they support policies that excuse and set free those who commit criminal acts of violence and assault, while at the same time call for the termination of me and my Deputies simply for flying a flag? It is not,” Hilton concluded.
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