OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — A judge ordered Epic Charter Schools to pay a state senator just under $36,000 in legal fees and $500,000 in sanctions after a libel lawsuit filed against him by Epic was dismissed.
“You see all these discrepancies here and so you’re asking questions,” Sen. Ron Sharp, (R) Shawnee, said.
Those questions landed Sharp at the center of a lawsuit.
“Suing me as a private individual, hoping this would financially drain me,” Sharp said.
Epic Charter Schools filed the libel and slander suit against Sharp back in December of 2019.
“All I’m saying is look, it appears they are in violation of statute and we need to get them in statute,” Sharp said.
He claimed the charter school system was making a “blatant misrepresentation of enrollment numbers” to get more state funding.
OSBI is investigating accusations of embezzlement and racketeering at Epic.
Epic has maintained they have done nothing wrong.
“They’re using taxpayer dollars to sue a duly elected official for asking questions as to why they’re receiving state taxpayer dollars for grade levels of which they have acknowledged they do not serve nor do they provide instruction for,” Sharp said.
In February, Judge Cindy Truong dismissed the suit.
On Wednesday, she ordered Epic to pay Sharp’s roughly $36,000 in legal fees along with $500,000 in sanctions.
“Under the anti-SLAPP laws in Oklahoma, the district judge awarded me $500,000 in sanctions to make sure they do not do this again,” Sharp said.
In a statement sent to News 4 on Thursday, Shelly Hickman, Assistant Superintendent of Communications for Epic, said:
“There are multiple reasons why the judge’s rulings are erroneous legally, which is why we will appeal. These include the court not allowing discovery but relying on unchallenged assertions by Mr. Sharp to make the rulings. His assertions would have been challenged and exposed during discovery. We also question how a non profit public school can be assessed a $500,000 anti SLAPP sanction for defending itself against an elected official.”
“There are obviously students out there who use and need the virtual concept of education. I have no problem with that, as long as individuals are not profiting millions in the process,” Sharp said.
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