Rep. Leezah Sun guilty of ‘disorderly behavior,’ paving the way for her expulsion

A Democratic lawmaker accused of threatening to throw a lobbyist over a balcony is facing possible expulsion, after an ethics panel ruled that her behavior meets the legislature’s definition for disorderly conduct. 

Rep. Leezah Sun, D-Phoenix, was the subject of a monthslong investigation by the House Ethics Committee, after Democratic leadership filed a complaint against her alleging a concerning “pattern of behavior” that reflected poorly on the legislature. 

The freshman lawmaker was accused of using her position to influence the outcome of a child custody arrangement, intimidating a school superintendent with an unwarranted investigation and threatening to kill a Tolleson city lobbyist by throwing her off of a balcony. Despite Sun repeatedly reiterating her innocence throughout both hearings, the ethics committee was unconvinced, issuing a final report on Tuesday that affirmed her behavior violated the legislature’s rules. 

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“The Committee unanimously concludes that Representative Sun committed a pattern of disorderly behavior, thereby violating Rule 1 of the Rules of the Arizona House of Representatives and damaging the institutional integrity of the House,” reads the panel’s report. 

While the Ethics Committee could have recommended a course of action for the entire state House of Representatives to take, including censuring or expelling Sun, the committee chose not to, saying only that the decision should be left up to the full 60-member House of Representatives. But the report’s assertion that Sun violated the legislature’s code of conduct opens the door for an expulsion, which requires a two-thirds majority vote and support across party lines. 

Given that Democratic leadership filed the complaint against her, that outcome is likely. 

During both public Ethics Committee hearings, Sun strongly denied ever making a death threat against Pilar Sinawi, a lobbyist for the city of Tolleson. But at the second hearing last week, panel members heard from two lobbyists who personally heard the threat at a conference in Tucson. And Sun’s repeated attempts to dismiss the allegations against her by claiming that her comments weren’t said directly to Sinawi — who wasn’t in attendance at the conference — or that they were meant as a joke or even that the second story of the lobby at the Tucson hotel wasn’t a balcony, failed to sway the Ethics Committee. 

“The Committee does not find Representative Sun’s contentions credible,” wrote the five legislators on the panel. “The Committee finds credible the testimony that she in fact levied a death threat about the Tolleson official while acting in her capacity as a member of the Arizona House of Representatives.”

The Ethics Committee also found Sun guilty of using her position to prevent a child custody transfer. During that incident, Sun identified herself as a state legislator and invoked Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes to influence the outcome in favor of her friend, the mother of the four minor children involved. That accusation highlights Sun’s misuse of her title and position, according to the ethics panel report. 

“Representative Sun acted under the color of her office when she intervened in the private custodial matter,” reads the report. “By doing so, she abused the power of her office.” 

Sun was also accused of threatening the job security of Littleton Elementary School Superintendent Roger Freeman, who told committee members that the threat of a groundless investigation followed a heated discussion in which Sun expressed displeasure with the school board’s president for criticizing a board member who formerly worked on her campaign. 

And after Freeman provided testimony in December, Sun attended a Littleton Elementary board meeting to complain about Freeman’s complaint against her. The Ethics Committee ruled that Sun’s repeated antagonism of Freeman constituted yet another instance of abusing the power of her office. 

In the end, the committee found that the allegations against Sun were true, and concluded that her behavior amounted to disorderly conduct for a member of the state legislature. 

“Pursuant to its investigation and factual findings…the Committee finds that the evidence sufficiently supports a conclusion that Representative Sun engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behavior in her official capacity and under the color of her office as a state representative,” wrote the report’s authors.

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