NOTE: This story has been updated to add comment from a lawyer for the city of Tolleson (Nov. 9, 8 am).
By this point, the allegations about the bizarre, confrontational behavior by Rep. Leezah Sun, D-Phoenix, have been well documented. She is accused of threatening to throw a Tolleson lobbyist off a balcony, making threats against other Tolleson officials, and in a more recent allegation, interfering with the custody arrangement of a constituent by showing up at the designated site for the transfer of the children between divorced spouses.
The Globe has gotten its hands on both the restraining order and the ethical complaint, filed by all four members of the Arizona House Democratic leadership team: Minority Leader Lupe Contreras, D-Avondale; Assistant Leader Oscar De Los Santos, D-Laveen; Whip Nancy Gutierrez, D-Tucson; and Whip Melody Hernandez, D-Tempe. In it, the four representatives sharply criticize their colleague and suggest she may have even committed a felony.
The documents are packed with strange and troubling details about Sun’s behavior, some of which have not made it into the press to date. Many of those details come from Sun herself, who responded to the restraining order placed against her by the Tolleson officials with a five-page single-spaced letter offering her side of the Tolleson confrontation.
The tea begins on May 31, at an impromptu government meeting at the city of Tolleson Civic Center. Reyes Medrano, the Tolleson city manager was sitting with Pilar Sinawi, the chief government affairs officer, and Alicia Guzman, the government affairs support specialist. Representative Sun showed up and sat at the rectangle conference table with the other three when they began discussing their shared disappointment over the repeal of a $25 million project to build an off-ramp at 91st Ave.
After some small talk, Representative Sun, allegedly blamed former Representative Diego Espinoza for the repeal of the funding. According to the report by Tolleson police, Lieutenant Lee Garrett, Rep. Sun began growing agitated and argumentative. “You only call when you want me to vote on certain bills,” she allegedly said.
Medrano disagreed with Sun’s assessment that Espinoza was to blame for the repeal of the funding and said “I’ve known Espinoza all my life. I spoke to him the day we found out about the repeal. Based on his reaction if he did know about the repeal, he is a great actor.” Sinawi was attempting to add color to that exchange when according to the three, Sun shouted “Bullshit! that’s bullshit. I’m going to tell you how it is.” She continued “Let me tell you what happens. Our legislators have been fucking us up!”
Medrano said, “We don’t talk like that here,” and Sinawi added, “We don’t use that language here. This is a place of work.” Some more words were exchanged, and Sun yelled, “You are a douche bag!” According to the police report “Representative Sun then began to stare intently at Mr. Medrano, and started to lean towards him in an aggressive manner. Medrano stated to me that he felt as if Representative Sun was going to be physically aggressive towards him and decided to break eye contact with her and remain quiet in an attempt to de-escalate the conversation.” Sinawi and Guzman describe the same aggressive posture from Representative Sun. Sinawi tried to deflect Sun’s attention from Medrano by saying, “Representative Sun!” over and over , and finally according to the police, “Representative Sun seemed to snap out of her aggressive, demeanor, and look towards Mrs. Sinawi.”
At this point, Guzman used her cell phone to record audio of the interaction so the transcript no longer relies on the witnesses’ recollection, and according to the police is directly from the electronic recording. They continue to argue, and as Guzman walked Sun out of the office area, Sun stated to Guzman regarding Medrano, “He’s an asshole. He’s a fucking asshole. He’s the most disrespectful member I’ve ever spoken with. Nobody ever treats me like that.” Guzman can be heard on the audio asking Sun to lower her voice is they are walking through the office where other staff members in Tolleson are overhearing the commotion. Sun responds, “I don’t care. He doesn’t talk to me like that. He doesn’t talk to me like that.” She later stated, “That is so disrespectful. The thing is, you guys are just enabling him. I get it, he is your boss, I’m sure he is a nice guy to you, but if he was treating me that way to other members that’s micro-aggression. That’s disgusting. That’s a douche bag. I will never be micro aggressioned by an asshole.”
In her lengthy response, Representative Sun downplays the intensity of the exchange. She conceded that she used “hyperbolic language,” such as referring to Pilar Sinawi as a “bitch” and says “I was growing increasingly frustrated with Mr. Medrano’s comments. I did call him a ‘douchebag.’” (Language fans will note that in her own recounting, Sun uses the one-word version “douchebag,” as opposed to the two-word “douche bag” favored by Lt. Garrett.)
Sun concedes, “I perhaps looked at him. I do not think looking at someone or making eye contatck with them and arguing should be construed as ‘physically aggressive’ as is described in the incident report.” But she says she “unequivocally most certainly did not make death threats of any variety. Sun concludes her response — a document she wrote for the judge — by writing “I do not deal with ego-tripping bullies like Mr. Medrano.”
Custodial Interference at DQ
Just in case the cage match at Tolleson City Hall wasn’t exciting enough, a few days later, an almost unbelievable incident unfolded in the parking lot of a fast food place.
According to a document submitted to the court by Family First Forensic Consultants in Phoenix, on June 16, 2023, a divorced mother was to bring her children to the Dairy Queen in Avondale for a schedule visitation with the children’s father.
“Due to counsel advising that prior unsupervised exchanges did not occur due to mother’s interference, it was agreed that mother would not be the individual to bring the children to the scheduled visitation.”
Therefore the supervisor was greeted by the stepfather, who exited the car and asked the supervisor her identity. The children were in the back of the black SUV in their seatbelts and didn’t seem to be getting out of the car to see their father. The supervisor told the children there was a court order in place instructing them to spend time with their father. The stepfather was right next to her as she explained this to the children for an entire hour, from 6:03 to 6:58 PM. Heartbreakingly, the children said their father was not their father; their stepfather was their father.
At 6:58 PM, Representative Leezah Sun approached the car, wearing a blue blouse and black slacks, and asked the supervisor what was going on in what the report calls a “loud and confrontational manner.” The woman had a badge on her blouse that read Representative Leezah Sun. Sun stated that these were her friends and that she knows who the supervisor is. She said she had been directed by Attorney General Kris Mayes and was “there to support her friend and constituent,” referring to the mother. Representative Sun advised she was there in an official capacity and that “this has gone on long enough.”
According to the document, “Representative Sun made comments that the supervisor was being ‘investigated’ and that Representative Sun knew all about her (the supervisor’s) track record.”
Unbelievably, the children witnessed this entire exchange. Representative Sun said, again according to the incident report, that she thought “appearing today would be a conflict, but after I spoke with Kris Mayes, she told me I absolutely needed to be here.” The supervisor, realizing that the kids were not going to exit the car to see their father lightheartedly wished them a good week and said “try not to play too much basketball and video games.” This banter upset Representative Sun, who demanded that the supervisor not tell the children what to do.
After the children left with their stepfather, having not visited with the father, Representative Sun knocked on the supervisor’s driver side window and told the supervisor she would report back to Attorney General Mayes that “due process was done and she did not see anything inappropriate occur.“
The Globe has reached out to Representative Sun, multiple times, and received no reply. This story will be updated if she gets back to the Globe. The Globe also asked Mr. Medrano and other Tolleson officials for comment. The town’s attorney, Allen H. Quist from the Mesa office of Pierce Coleman, told the Globe, “As you are aware, the City of Tolleson recently obtained an injunction against harassment to protect its employees. Because this is an active legal matter, media inquiries are being directed to this law firm, which provides city attorney services to Tolleson. The City’s reasons for obtaining the injunction are set forth in the petition that the City filed in the Maricopa County Superior Court (CV2023-016222), which details three separate sets of incidents involving Ms. Sun and Tolleson employees. The City believes its petition speaks for itself and currently has nothing further to add.”
Democratic Leader Lupe Contreras gave the Globe the same statement she had provided to others: “This was a very difficult decision for everyone on our team because it involves a member of our caucus. But we believe the documented allegations are very serious and warrant an ethics investigation, and we believe in holding each other accountable for our behavior as public servants. It’s as simple as that.:
Contreras added in a statement to the Globe, “Going forward, in a matter like this, which requires a formal process by the Ethics Committee, it’s best to let the complaint speak for itself.”
Accourding to the complaint, the custodial interference behavior include “very serious allegations and, if true, likely constitute disorderly behavior in violation of House Rule 1 and perhaps even A.R.S. 13-1302, custodial interference, which is a class 3 felony.”
But it seems that the bizarre incident in the Dairy Queen parking lot, which occurred a few weeks after the brawl in Tolleson, left the Democratic legislators feeling that they had no choice but to move forward agaist Rep. Sun.
Contreras told the Globe, “In regards to the additional allegation of custodial interference: That matter was brought to our attention by the Speaker’s Office earlier this summer. It came to the Speaker’s Office from an outside third party. It was of deep concern and we have been weighing our options. Representative Sun would not speak to Leadership about the matter. When the most recent allegations from the City of Tolleson were brought to light, we believed the alleged custodial interference incident spoke to a pattern of behavior and so we opted to include it as part of this complaint.
Again, the complaint has been filed, it’s time for the process to take its course. For now, that’s all we have to say.”
The fight in Tolleson on May 31, followed by the bizarre interference at the Dairy Queen on June 16 may have led to a restraining order and an ethics complaint. But that doesn’t mean they’ve fully chastened the hot-tempered representative.
According to the complaint, on Aug 29, she threatened to throw Pilar Sinawi off a balcony and “kill her.”
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