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AZ House Ethics Committee holds hearing on complaint Rep. Leezah Sun

A state House ethics committee heard testimony Tuesday from five people who accused West Valley lawmaker Leezah Sun of harassment and abusing her position. 

State Rep. Sun faces an ethics complaint filed by fellow Democrats that contains allegations she harassed and threatened city officials in Tolleson and interfered in a court-ordered child custody transfer on behalf of a friend.

During the ethics hearing, Sun admitted to interfering in the custody transfer but denied a second allegation that she falsely claimed to represent Attorney General Kris Mayes during the altercation.

But Kristyn Alcott, who was appointed by the court to oversee the transfer, testified that Sun approached her aggressively during the incident and attempted to intimidate her. 

“There were moments of a stare-down where I was being stared at in an intimidating manner to attempt to influence how I was to move the process forward,” Alcott said.

And she alleged Sun did discuss the Attorney General’s Office during their conversation.

Sun and her attorney cited a recording and transcript of parts of the altercation they provided to the committee that does not include any mention of Mayes or the Attorney General’s Office.

But Alcott claimed that the tape was edited and did not include the entirety of the incident.

“The audio recording was more than 59 minutes that you guys have been provided,” she said. 

The ethics committee also heard from the city of Tolleson employees and a West Valley superintendent, who alleged Sun made vague threats to use her power as a legislator to retaliate against him or his district during a tense exchange.

Tolleson City Manager Reyes Medrano and two other employees obtained an injunction against harassment on Oct. 18 against Sun following the May meeting in which Sun is accused of yelling at the staff members and using crude language. The meeting was scheduled to discuss the repeal of legislation that would have funded a road project in Tolleson.

One of the employees in that May meeting was allegedly the subject of Sun’s ire later in the year during a League of Arizona Cities and Towns conference. Sun allegedly told another attendee that if Tolleson lobbyist Pilar Sinawi showed up at the conference, Sun would slap her and throw her off a balcony “to kill her.”

Sinawi, who did not attend the conference, told the committee she feared for her physical safety after learning of the comments.

“She has taken a sense of security away from me,” Sinawi said.

Sun admitted to saying she would slap Sinawi, but denied threatening to kill her. In a response to the initial ethics complaint, Sun’s attorney Garrick McFadden said the comment was meant to blow off steam.

“I am expressive but I am not cruel,” Sun said. 

Sun and McFadden denied the bulk of the allegations that she threatened or harassed anyone.  They claimed much of the testimony — such as the alleged threat at the League of Arizona Cities and Towns conference – was based on hearsay.

That argument appeared to gain some traction with Republicans on the ethics committee.

Rep. Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert) repeatedly asked witnesses whether Sun ever threatened them directly or if they heard about alleged threats second- or third-hand.

But Democrats on the panel repeatedly pushed Sun to respond to the allegations presented by the slate of five witnesses.

“They felt, and I’m going to paraphrase, perhaps an abuse of office and intimidation,” said Rep. Jennifer Longdon (D-Phoenix). “I just want to clarify, you’re telling us that each of these individuals is lying to us today?”

Following the hearing, McFadden, Sun’s attorney, said he felt she received a fair hearing before the committee. 

“I think it was a very fair process,” McFadden said.

But Sun continued to claim the witnesses misrepresented the facts of each incident and that she was the victim of a “smear campaign.”

She declined to elaborate on who was behind that alleged campaign against her. 

Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.