For several years, John Paul Manuel stood with Del. Michael San Nicolas as the latter’s most senior aide and former chief campaigner.
As the then-senator’s chief of staff, and at one time his boss' campaign chairman, Manuel expected San Nicolas' upward career move from being a Guam senator to a freshman member of the U.S. Congress also would secure a congressional staff job for Manuel.
But the staff position that was promised to Manuel didn’t happen.
And the falling out between the delegate and his most senior staff for six years has now spilled into public space, including on social media.
Manuel has accused his former boss of using funds raised for his congressional campaign as reimbursements for an alleged foreign trip and hotel stays with his alleged mistress.
Manuel also has accused San Nicolas of hiring the alleged mistress as part of his congressional staff.
How does Manuel know? He said he was tasked with booking some of San Nicolas' trips and hotel stays. And he kept certain records which he showed to The Guam Daily Post.
No comment from delegate
The Post has reached out to San Nicolas, who hasn’t commented as of press time.
Manuel also has accused San Nicolas of forging his father’s signature on checks drawn from a congressional campaign bank account as the congressman’s father is a campaign official and signatory to the account.
"He forged his father's signature on all checks. He said he did so that if he was ever caught, it would be his father that got in trouble – not himself," Manuel said.
As a trusted aide to San Nicolas, Manuel said he kept quiet about his boss' alleged affair for years.
But a few months after San Nicolas hired the woman as part of his congressional staff, Manuel couldn't keep his public silence. Manuel alleged the woman, during the congressional campaign, openly stated her success came without a college degree.
“Her educational credentials – I knew from her directly – not sure who else would know,” Manuel said.
The woman also didn't have experience in public policy or legislative work based on a publicly available career background on her.
Manuel said his relationship with his boss started to get rough toward the end of the congressional campaign and after San Nicolas secured the congressional seat – but Manuel was still part of San Nicolas’ circle during the congressional orientation in Washington, D.C.
During the campaign and throughout the congressional orientation in D.C., Manuel said he “debated a lot” with his now-former boss.
And these debates, Manuel said, were partly because he wanted his boss to follow the ethical standards of his office. The affair was one of the thorniest issues, among others, Manuel alleged.
“It was part of my job to be 'his conscience' – he said,” Manuel told the Post.
“We fought privately about his ethical and legal issues often,” Manuel said.
After more than a week attending the congressional orientation with San Nicolas and the delegate's alleged mistress in D.C., in November, Manuel was the one who came back to Guam without a congressional job.
At the time, Manuel did have to go back to Guam because his father was ill. Manuel’s dad died in January, and he said San Nicolas’ family paid a visit during a rosary.
Manuel said San Nicolas told him he’d get a congressional staffer job in what San Nicolas hoped would be his second term – which would be in 2021 – if he hangs on to the congressional seat.
Hotel bookings, campaign funds
Manuel said he made some of the hotel bookings for San Nicolas' alleged trips with the woman who is now a congressional staffer.
Manuel showed a booking he made on Expedia.com for three nights in February 2018 at the Nurture Wellness Village in Tagaytay City, a mountain hotel spa with proximity to the lake in Taal Volcano, in the Philippines. The booking initially cost $477.79 and listed “Michael San Nicolas” as the guest. Manuel showed an additional booking at the same resort for a fourth night, costing $145.40.
Manuel alleged San Nicolas paid the hotel at the check-in counter but later paid himself with funds from the congressional campaign. After the Tagaytay hotel stay, Manuel alleged, he also booked for San Nicolas a two-night stay at the Shangri-La hotel in Bonifacio Global City, also in the Philippines, for 25,100 Philippine pesos or about $500. Manuel said the trip was also allegedly paid for with congressional campaign funds and was justified as a trip to buy campaign materials. A Guam businessman saw San Nicolas and the woman in the Philippines during this trip, Manuel said.
Manuel said another former Guam senator's chief of staff saw San Nicolas at a Manila airport in this time frame. This other senatorial staffer confirmed with the Post anonymously Sunday he did see San Nicolas, in a tank top, with a woman who isn't San Nicolas' wife on a flight from Manila to Guam.
Manuel also showed a two-night booking he said he made at the Outrigger Guam Resort in May 2018, and costing $451.42 after a discount. The booking is under Manuel’s name, but he alleged San Nicolas and the woman stayed in the hotel room.
“I have the room keys for this one, too,” Manuel said. “I gave to them and he gave it back to dispose.”
Manuel was San Nicolas’ chief of staff for two years until the very end of the senator’s third term in the Guam Legislature in December 2018. And in the preceding four years, he said he was senior policy adviser who functioned as the "de facto chief of staff" because there was no chief of staff.
But instead of bringing Manuel on board, San Nicolas picked other congressional staffers – even one without public policy experience – on staff.
After the allegations Manuel has laid out, he accepts the promise of a congressional job in San Nicolas’ hoped-for second term will not be realized.
“Yes – he told me second term. But obviously, that's not going to happen now,” Manuel told the Post in messages Saturday and Sunday.
Manuel also said he was offered a job as someone else's Guam senatorial staffer but he thought it was to keep him quiet.
“He even offered to transfer his lapses – $38,000ish – to get me a job with Jim Moylan. But I did not accept. Because I saw it as hush money.” Lapses are a term for unused senatorial office funds at the end of a senator’s term. Manuel was referring to a potential job with Sen. James Moylan, at the urging of San Nicolas.
Moylan confirmed "there was intent to hire him, but he ended up taking a position with Sen. Shelton’s Office. We wished him well and never heard from him after that, and we moved on with our own office."
Manuel has another job now as a senior legislative staffer to Sen. Amanda Shelton, who was a congressional staffer to former Del. Madeleine Bordallo.
Manuel acknowledges he could be portrayed as a bitter ex-staffer.
'He needed cash'
“I am aware he will try to discredit me, but the truth is on my side," Manuel said. The departure was because of our disagreement over the hiring of the mistress, he said.
Manuel named the alleged mistress, but the Post isn't naming the woman at this time.
When the Post asked Manuel if he has filed or would file an ethics complaint in the House of Representatives ethics committee, he said, “I have not. I hope he will come clean and be honest on his own.”
But why would San Nicolas, if it were true he used campaign funds to reimburse himself on personal trips, risk his career?
"He reimbursed himself with campaign money because, at some point, he needed cash," Manuel said.