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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma judge has awarded a state senator thousands of dollars in legal fees following a fight against a charter school.

In September of 2019, Oklahoma Sen. Ron Sharp told KFOR that EPIC Charter Schools had violated state law on a number of issues.

“If this goes the way it looks like it’s going right now, this could be the biggest political scandal in American history,” Sen. Ron Sharp (R – Shawnee) said.

He claimed the charter school system was making a “blatant misrepresentation of enrollment numbers” to get more state funding.

​”They’re out of compliance. That’s not a question, and that’s costing our taxpayer dollars millions,” Sen. Sharp said.​

However, leaders with EPIC said they have done nothing wrong.

“We either have libel or we have ignorance. ​What he’s saying about EPIC is a lie,” Bobby Stem, founding chairman of the board for EPIC, said.

Stem says Sen. Sharp’s claims are false and insists EPIC complies with all financial reporting laws.

“Every dollar is accounted for, and because of some recent legislation, even the management company will begin disclosing some of those dollars as well now. I don’t know where he’s getting that, but what’s more concerning is that a senator who sits on the Senate education appropriations committee doesn’t know this​,” Stem said.

News 4 obtained a letter from the State Department of Education to Sen. Sharp saying EPIC has abided by the law.

​”The State Board of Education did not do their oversight authority, and the state virtual charter school board, no one did their due diligence in making sure this is compliant, and that’s why the OSBI is having to come in​, and we don’t know how far that’s going to go,” Sen. Sharp said.

The OSBI began investigating EPIC in February of 2019, but no charges have ever been filed.

In December, EPIC Charter Schools filed a defamation lawsuit against Sen. Sharp, claiming that Sharp published false statements about the school and refused to retract them.

Previously, Sharp had said that it was “troubling” that the school doesn’t understand it is open to public scrutiny since it receives public funding.

“It is the statutory responsibility of a legislator to scrutinize every single dollar that is spent by a public school. In the case of Epic, $111 million was allocated in FY 2018-19 to Epic as a public school. Any questionable allocation of tax dollars to any public agency or school must be thoroughly examined. For a public school to consider that a legislator responsible for oversight of tax dollars should cease and desist in questioning its spending is unprecedented,” Sen. Sharp said in a statement.

In February, a judge dismissed the defamation lawsuit that was filed against Sen. Sharp. In the ruling, the judge determined that Sharp’s comments are protected and were not malicious.

After the defamation lawsuit was dismissed, a judge has ruled that EPIC must pay the senator’s legal fees.

On Wednesday, a judge awarded Sen. Sharp $35,912 in legal fees and also imposed a $500,000 sanction against Epic.

Officials say the defamation lawsuit was dismissed under the Governmental Tort Claims Act and the Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act.

The OCPA states that when a lawsuit is dismissed under the act, a judge must award attorneys’ fees to the moving party. It also requires that a court impose a sanction against the party that filed the action to deter similar lawsuits.

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.”

Epic sent KFOR the following statement after the ruling:

“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.”

Shelly Hickman, Assistant Superintendent of Communications for EPIC