Rep. Leezah Sun's ethics complaint rebuttal acknowledges poor behavior, argues for no punishment

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A state lawmaker's rebuttal to an ethics complaint against her acknowledges some of her poor behavior, and accuses a city official of potentially suffering from past "trauma" because he claimed she intimidated him.

Rep. Leezah Sun, D-Phoenix, faces potential expulsion from the Arizona Legislature after being accused of making intimidating statements and interfering with a child custody case. Through her lawyer, she denied the allegations in a formal response to the complaint filed by her fellow Democrats. The complaint charges Sun with violating the Legislature's rule against "disorderly behavior."

Expulsion, the harshest penalty the Legislature can inflict on its own members, would take a two-thirds majority vote. Censure would require a simple majority.

House Ethics Committee Chair Rep. Joseph Chaplik, R-Scottsdale, presided over two high-profile ethics cases this year: the expulsion of former Rep. Liz Harris, R-Chandler, for lying about false information presented to the Legislature, and the censure of Rep. Stephanie Hamilton, D-Tucson, for repeatedly hiding Bibles kept in the House lounge.

Garrick McFadden, an Arizona lawyer who recently moved to Washington D.C., sent the rebuttal on behalf of Sun to the state House of Representatives' Ethics Committee on Nov. 13, two days before it was due.

A progressive activist who's in her first term, Sun was banned from Tolleson's city hall by an injunction last month after she was accused of harassment following her profanity-laced visit in May with city officials. The Nov. 2 ethics complaint by Democratic leaders outlines other alleged transgressions, including the June custody incident. The complaint also features allegations from an Aug. 29 incident in which a witness claims Sun said if she saw one of the officials, she would smack the woman's face "and throw her off this balcony to kill her."

She previously denied the claims in a lengthy letter to the news media. Sun told The Arizona Republic in an interview that she never said she'd throw city lobbyist Pilar Sinawi off a balcony, but did say she'd "b-----slap" the woman. Sun's also denied she abused her authority in the custody case.

Read the rebuttal: Ethics complaint rebuttal filed by state Rep. Leezah Sun

The rebuttal sent by her attorney said "it was not the best move to say that she would b---- slap a woman" and that Sun "may have acted inappropriately by interfering in the child custody matter," but argued these and other allegations shouldn't result in censure or expulsion.

At the Tolleson meeting, Sun couldn't have intimidated Tolleson City Manager Reyes Medrano Jr., because he's much larger than her, the rebuttal stated.

"I submit I do not know what type of trauma, if any, Mr. Medrano has suffered in the past that would make him susceptible to fearing for his life from the glare of a 52-year-old unarmed 5’4” woman who weighs 140 pounds," McFadden wrote, describing Medrano as 5'10" and 225 pounds. "Not to be flippant, but his fear, given the circumstances, is unreasonable."

He indicated Sun felt "wronged" and that other lawmakers are known to use "salty language."

In court records, Medrano, Sinawi and another official claim that they were "seriously alarmed and concerned" about Sun's behavior. They accuse her of yelling profanity during a meeting about a freeway off-ramp and leveling a long and icy stare at Medrano that suggested to the other officials she wanted to hurt him.

McFadden included as exhibits a transcript and audio recording of the June 16 custody incident that McFadden said proved Sun never invoked the name of state Attorney General Kris Mayes while a custody supervisor attempted to negotiate a court-ordered parental visitation for four children. McFadden wrote that if Ethics Committee members listened to the recording, which was made by the children's stepfather during the incident in a Dairy Queen parking lot, "I suggest that many of you would have interfered."

While the audio recording — which McFadden told The Arizona Republic hasn't been altered, as far he knows — doesn't contain a reference by anyone to Mayes, the rebuttal acknowledged that another conversation took place between the custody supervisor and Sun that wasn't recorded.

The custody supervisor, Kristyn Alcott, wrote a letter to the court after the incident saying Sun showed up wearing a nametag indicating she was a state representative and that her attitude was "confrontational and intimidating."

The recording supports those claims. In it, Sun can be heard admonishing Alcott not to call her "miss," but "Rep. Leezah Sun." She repeatedly tells the woman "you're done" with the attempted transfer.

Sun acknowledged some of Alcott's claims in a June 22 letter that became part of the court record.

“I also identified myself as a friend of the family and told her that, as an elected representative, I wanted to look out for all of my constituents,” Sun wrote. Sun said she was “in the process of collecting the parents’ stories to be sent to the Attorney General’s office.”

As for the claim that Sun sent a follow request on social media to Medrano's daughter and Sinawi's husband after the May meeting, McFadden wrote that it was "not stalking" and "not harassment by the very definition of the word" since it was only one request each.

Reach the reporter at or 480-276-3237. Follow him on X @raystern.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Rep. Leezah Sun files rebuttal over claims of threats, intimidation