Oral Roberts University president accused of illegal political donations and financial misappropriation

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Friday, October 5, 2007

Richard Roberts, the President of Oral Roberts University, and his wife, Lindsay Roberts, are accused of illegal political contributions, financial wrong-doing, and wrongful firings in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed by three former professors who claim "they were wrongfully dismissed after reporting the school's involvement in a local political race." According to KTEN television news, "Roberts' statement says personal expenses are charged to him and he personally pays them on a monthly basis." On October 3, Roberts "told students and faculty during his weekly chapel Wednesday that the lawsuit is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion."

Richard has been president of ORU since his father, Oral Roberts university founder and former faith healer, "semi-retired" in 1993.

Political accusations

Tim Brooker, one the former professors suing ORU, was employed by ORU starting 2001 when he was recruited by the Republican National Committee (RNC) "in an effort to further Republican efforts." According to reports, over the next six years the program had success in political races outside of Oklahoma, and was financed either by the RNC or individual campaign committees.

Specifically, Roberts is accused making of illegal donations to current Tulsa County Commissioner Randi Miller, a Republican candidate, in her race for Tulsa mayor. The university staff worried that "Roberts risked the non-profit status of the university by insisting" students work as volunteers for Miller's mayoral campaign. In May 2006, after the IRS contacted ORU about its involvement Miller's campaign, Brooker said he told to "fall on the sword" while taking "full and total blame." This would have required covering up the directives made by Roberts. Days after the three professors brought this to the attention of the school, they were fired by Stephanie Cantese, Richard Robert's sister-in-law. Cantese also said Brooker's "son would not graduate from ORU."

Other allegations

The allegations against misusing ORU assets include Roberts using the university jet and billing expenses for several vacations, using the jet to ferry people for his daughter's trip to Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas on ORU credit cards, maintaining a stable of horses at the university for exclusive use by the Roberts’ children, having university and ministry employees summoned to the Roberts home to do the daughters’ homework, having ORU staff and security do family chores, remodeling the Roberts home 11 times in the past 14 years, using several ORU vehicles for personal use, and purchasing a red Mercedes convertible and a Lexus SUV for Lindsay with ORU money.

Lindsay is also accused of spending tens of thousands of dollars on clothes billed to the university, awarding thirteen nonacademic scholarships to friends' children despite poor scores, sending late-night text messages on university-issued cell phones to "underage males," and firing a "longtime maintenance employee" at ORU her "underage male friend" could have the job.

In addition one Roberts' children was video-taped vandalizing and removing athletic department equipment from ORU property. The items, which were beneficial to the Roberts family was not recovered and though Richard was confronted he took no action.

The lawsuit also claims Paulita Brooker, Tim's wife, "was fired partly because Swails had reported that Vice Provost [Jeff Ogle] sexually harassed another professor" and took no action regarding the sexual harassment.

Responses

John Hagee, a ORU Board of Regents member, said the university's executive board "is conducting a full and thorough investigation." The lawsuit alleges "members of the Board of Regents are painfully aware- have omitted from this Petition to preserve, as much as possible, the remaining image of the University." Furthermore, the court filing quoted Roberts as saying "if a Regent appears to give me trouble, I remove him. I stack the deck. . ."

On Wednesday Roberts said, "This suit has been filed by an attorney who has over the years filed many suits against Oral Roberts University . . . And he has lost every suit that he has filed against the university." In response Gary Richardson, representing the plaintiffs, noted he was involved in only one lawsuit involving ORU, involving its hospital building, and it was settled before trial. Richardson replied, "I hate to call him a liar, but he's a liar."


Sources

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