Joe, I still can't reproduce your issue.
Can you please verify against what I'm trying:
1. Setup a VPN that provides DNS via DHCP
2. Connect to that VPN and verify DNS by:
$ systemd-resolve --status
Link 4 (tun0)
DNS Servers: X.X.X.X
3. Disconnect VPN and edit connection:
$ nmcli connection edit myvpn
nmcli> set ipv4.dns-priority -30
nmcli> save
$ nmcli connection show myvpn | grep dns-priority
ipv4.dns-priority:                      -30
ipv6.dns-priority:                      0

4. Re-connect to VPN and try to reach a name within the VPN:
$ dig

I have used:
$ apt-cache policy network-manager
  Installed: 1.10.6-2ubuntu1.2

Please tell me in which of the steps in your case network-manager
behaves differently.

You received this bug notification because you are a member of Ubuntu
Touch seeded packages, which is subscribed to network-manager in Ubuntu.

  NetworkManager 1.10.6-2ubuntu1.2 breaks VPN DNS

Status in network-manager package in Ubuntu:

Bug description:
  NetworkManager as of 1.10.6-2ubuntu1.2 has cause a regression whereby
  a VPN connection which sets it's dns-priority to a negative value,
  which should cause the DNS server supplied by the DNS connection to be
  placed first, instead now refuses to place the DNS server into the
  resolver under any circumstance.

  Pinning the 1.10.6-2ubuntu1.1 works around the issue.

  I suspect the fix-dns-leak-lp1754671.patch has caused this regression.

  This patch should be reverted as soon as possible to restore proper
  functionality of network manager with respect to VPN servers with DNS

  $ lsb_release -rd
  Description:  Ubuntu 18.04.3 LTS
  Release:      18.04

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