One of San Jose Councilman Manh Nguyen’s ex-staffers, Cole Niblett, made some bold allegations last week, accusing the District 4 rep of pulling a Mike Honda—a.k.a. improperly using official resources to help his re-election efforts. Niblett became a council assistant in August after working on Nguyen’s special election campaign, but he resigned in November. Now he’s blasting Nguyen’s closest associates for allegedly breaking a host of city rules. Jonathan Padilla and Bryan Do, both of whom have had roles in Nguyen’s campaign and his office, deny the allegations. Do is an odd case—neither a volunteer nor a staffer for the councilman, he was a constant presence at City Hall last year and remains one of Nguyen’s most trusted advisors. Due to a quick turnaround after last year’s special election, he’s helping Nguyen again run to retain the office he took last August. Niblett claims he witnessed a fellow staffer using campaign call sheets to reach out to the Vietnamese community for a district-sponsored event held Oct. 20. Sources say she was calling people well beyond District 4—outside of San Jose, even—suggesting the event was more for campaign support than District 4 constituents. Niblett took his concerns to Santa Clara County prosecutor John Chase, who oversees the Public Integrity Unit, but Chase said the case lacked evidence of criminal activity. Fly has since learned that Do, while working on Nguyen’s 2015 campaign, obtained confidential info from the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee. Somehow, Nguyen’s campaign wound up with the ChamberPAC’s questionnaire for opponent Lan Diep, who is again challenging Nguyen in the June primary. Derrick Seaver, the Chamber’s VP of public policy, said he was unaware of the leak until Fly’s call and that anyone found responsible would be disciplined for breach of confidentiality. Padilla, who worked for the Chamber at the time, denies supplying the document to Do. The Chamber ended up endorsing both Diep and Nguyen for the primary and stuck with the latter in the runoff against Tim Orozco, who also might be running again. Seaver says the ChamberPAC has already given Nguyen a sole endorsement for the upcoming repeat race and that is unlikely to change.
Correction: A previous version of this story noted that Cole Niblett began working in Manh Nguyen’s council office in October, instead of August. San Jose Inside regrets the error.