Former Staffer of SJ Councilman Manh Nguyen Accuses Office of Breaking Law, Dirty Campaigning

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.

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  1. Now the thieves are complaining that they aren’t getting their share. Bogus Non American people are demanding their share. Standby for Bogus Jeff Rosen to clean it up without prosecution. Jeff “the criminal” Rosen. Cop killings defense attorney. Notice it will all come down and then people are going to come out and after all of them.

  2. Chamber of Commerce should not have trusted CROOKED Padilla with sensitive information. Councilor Manh should FIRE Padilla to save himself future embarrassment. He is making bad name for viet community.

  3. Another San Jose City Councilman with the surname Nguyen, Tam Nguyen, is also accused of unethical conduct. He resigned his membership to the State Bar of California with charges pending in November. There are eight counts of misconduct. One occurred while he was a sitting city councilman. This is public information but it hasn’t been reported anywhere. I think the public needs to know an elected official is accused of misappropriating money and violating his professional duty. He is accused of not cooperating with the Bar’s investigation while a sitting councilman. He was suspended from the State Bar in 2004 in a similar case after it found he had misapprpriated a client’s money.

    • Well, Maxzee, SJ’s roads are certainly third world quality, so why should its politics be any different? Back in the day, i.e the late 1970’s, San Jose was heralded as the feminist capital of the world because so many of its city council members were women. That council demographic provided little in the way of positive change. Currently, a greater number of city council members are not “European-American”, as Dale Warner might say. Yet not a word is spoken about that fact, and it’s still business as usual here in hick town. Just sayin’.

      • I think that this has more to do with the fact that few people outside of those with vested interest (real estate developers as an example but others as well), than council people being female or coming from certain continents.

        A Vietnamese name does help (with Vietnamese ballots and press the folks who use this as a primary language can be organized for a short low budget campaign). Lot’s of voters just vote for a Nguyen cuz honestly hard to follow local politics with jobs and family?

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