A little more than a week ago, Manh Nguyen‘s opponents filed four separate but similar complaints against the San Jose council candidate that accused him of lying about his marital status on city documents.
The city’s Ethics Commission will review the allegations when it meets Wednesday, though an independent evaluator has already recommended dismissing the complaints.
The complaints filed between May 27 and June 1 claim that Nguyen checked a box on a Family Gift Reporting Form indicating that he doesn’t have a spouse. Property records, however, show that he’s still married, and Nguyen admitted as much in an interview with San Jose Inside, though he’s been separated from his wife for years.
Hanson Bridgett, the law firm hired by the city to review the ethics complaints, concluded that there’s simply not enough evidence to merit an investigation.
“Even reading the complaint in a manner designed to give as much benefit of the doubt to the complainant as possible, we nevertheless conclude that the complainant does not identify specific facts, which if proven, would be a violation of Title 12,” Steven Miller and Joan Cassman write in their evaluation of city ethics code. “We therefore did not conduct an investigation of the complaint. We recommend that the commission dismiss the matter without taking further action.”
The law firm’s recommendation was first reported by the Mercury News.
Nguyen, who runs his own Vietnamese-language media company, dismissed the complaints as frivolous. On Friday, he issued a statement denouncing negative campaigning.
“I have been accused of sending a mailer I did not send, owing taxes on a business I do not own and living where I do not live,” he said. “Labor and their supporters are attacking me in the final days of the campaign because they cannot win by talking about the facts.”
Nguyen set up a page on his campaign website to debunk some of the rumors, most of which can be traced back to labor blogs and attack mailers. But some of the attacks come from within the Vietnamese community, which has long been rife with political divisions.
Nguyen upset one of the complainants, criminal defense attorney Minh Steven Dovan, by rallying behind Sam Liccardo in last year’s mayoral election. Dovan, who supported Dave Cortese, said he had a falling out with Nguyen and resigned after hosting of one of his TV shows for almost three decades.
A candidate for San Jose’s District 4 council seat, Nguyen faces Tim Orozco, a policy aide for state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) who has also faced scrutiny for two drunk driving arrests. While Nguyen has garnered support from the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, Orozco is endorsed by the South Bay Labor Council.
Whoever wins the June 23 special election could shift the council’s balance of power on key issues like pension reform.
The north San Jose council seat opened up last fall, when then-Councilman Kansen Chu was elected to the state Assembly.
Orozco and Nguyen have espoused very different views on jobs, housing and pension reform, though they both agree on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 and improving the city’s pedestrian and bicycle pathways.
Just about 4,400 ballots have already been returned in the special election, which is expected to have very low turnout, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.