Sharp Awarded Legal Fees In Lawsuit Filed By Epic
In a press release received late today, Aug. 12, 2020, It was announced that Sen. Ron Sharp prevailed in a lawsuit filed late 2019 by Epic Charter School against Sharp.
August 13, 2020
Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy H. Truong Wednesday awarded Senator Ron Sharp (R-Shawnee) $35,912 in legal fees (100%) in a lawsuit filed by Community Strategies, Inc. (doing business as Epic Charter Schools). The court also imposed a sanction of $500,000 against Epic. Sharp will receive both awards.
Epic filed the lawsuit against Senator Sharp late last year. The lawsuit alleged that the senator's statements criticizing Epic were defamatory. The award of attorneys' fees and imposition of sanctions follow Judge Truong's dismissal of the lawsuit under the Governmental Tort Claims Act (GTCA) and the Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act (OCPA).
The OCPA is an "anti-SLAPP" law enacted by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2014 to "encourage and safeguard the constitutional rights of persons to petition, speak freely, associate freely and otherwise participate in government to the maximum extent permitted by law and, at the same time, protect the rights of a person to file meritorious lawsuits for demonstrable injury." The OCPA requires a court that dismisses a lawsuit under the statute to award attorneys' fees to the moving party. It also requires that the court impose a sanction against the party that filed the action to deter similar lawsuits.
Sharp has worked for months to require more transparency in Epic's dealings with the state. Epic receives state funds for the operations of its online schools, but has claimed it does not have to produce the same records public schools do. The company is currently under investigation for its practices.
Senator Sharp said he is "very pleased with the result in this case and will continue to work to ensure proper oversight and use of state funds on behalf of his constituents and the people of Oklahoma."
Sharp said he expects Epic to appeal.