The Woodward News

January 25, 2013

WIF lawsuit dismissed

Roywnn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit that the Woodward Industrial Foundation had filed against District Attorney Hollis Thorp.

In a hearing Thursday, Garfield County District Judge Paul Woodward granted Thorp's motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the court didn't have jurisdiction to grant the relief that the Industrial Foundation (WIF) was seeking.

Thorp said the Woodward Industrial Foundation's suit was "not in the proper forum" since the group was trying to use a civil case to limit the District Attorney's ability to enforce a criminal statute.

"It's not the type of law where the court had the authority to restrict the state's prosecution of the violation of the Open Meetings Act," he said.

The case arose out of Thorp's August ruling that the Industrial Foundation is a public body and should abide by the Oklahoma Open Meetings Act.  The Industrial Foundation filed a lawsuit in September to challenge the ruling.

Despite the lawsuit, Thorp and Assistant District Attorney A. J. Laubhan said that the Industrial Foundation have been working to comply with the open meeting laws. Thorp said his office has received no complaints of the foundation violating the Open Meeting Act since the August ruling.

Cody Hodgden, attorney for the Woodward Industrial Foundation, said that he and his client respected Judge Woodward's ruling on Thursday.

"Certainly we would have liked to have had the issue decided on its merits, but we respect the judge's decision," Hodgden said.

It is unclear whether the foundation will appeal Woodward's ruling.

Hodgden said that the Woodward Industrial Foundation will take some time to determine what its next step will be.

"We're going to evaluate our options and proceed from there," he said.

WIF President LaVern Phillips and WIF Board Chairman Alan Case II both declined to make a comment to The News following Thursday's hearing.

The District Attorney was pleased with Judge Woodward's decision to dismiss the lawsuit.

"I think the judge followed the law and applied the law correctly and made a sound ruling," Thorp said.