TULSA — Embattled Richard Roberts announced Wednesday he is taking a leave of absence as president of Oral Roberts University but will remain as chairman and chief executive officer of Oral Roberts Ministries. In a statement issued by the university, Roberts said that in the 15 days since a lawsuit was filed against him, ORU and three top school officials, the "untrue allegations have struck a terrible blow in my heart.” Billy Joe Daugherty, pastor of Victory Christian Center, has been named executive regent and will lead the university while Roberts is on leave, said George Pearsons, chairman of ORU's board of regents. Pearsons said the board does not have anyone in mind to replace Roberts and would want him to return if allegations made in the lawsuit are found to be untrue. Roberts will continue to live in university-provided housing and will be paid while on leave. Daugherty left the board of regents in mid-June, but accepted an offer last week to rejoin the board. The lawsuit filed in Tulsa County District Court by three former professors alleges libel, slander or defamation, emotional distress and being wrongfully fired.
What does Roberts say?In his statement Wednesday, Roberts struck back at an allegation in the lawsuit. "The untrue allegations of sexual misconduct by my wife (Lindsay) have hurt the most.” Robert said he asked ORU's Board of Regents for the leave of absence and will return "when the board feels it's appropriate.” Earlier, the regents approved an independent investigation of the allegations made in the lawsuit, many of them claiming Roberts and his wife used ORU funds for their personal use. The suit states that Roberts ordered the use of ORU students in the Tulsa mayoral primary campaign of Randi Miller, now a Tulsa County commissioner, against the advice of the three professors who said it violated the tax code for nonprofit institutions. ORU has confirmed that a year ago the Internal Revenue Service was investigating. ORU said it later made changes in line with the recommendations made by the IRS. The suit contends that a false allegation was made to the IRS during the course of that investigation. In taking the leave of absence, Roberts said in the statement: "I have prayed about it, and feel that it is in the best interest of my family and the university.” In his continuing position with the ministries, Robert said he will continue preaching and teaching "God's Word and will continue to write letters and books, and minister to the need of people.”
What's the local reaction?Pastor Matt Nelson of Oklahoma City's North Church, 1600 W Memorial, was a spiritual life dorm adviser at ORU, working for Richard and Lindsay Roberts. He met with them at least monthly along with the student leadership to talk about issues at the school and how to ha ndle them better. About Roberts taking a leave of absence, Nelson, "from what I know of Richard, he has always put his family first.” "I do not even want to speculate until the truth is revealed” about the allegations, Nelson said. "I have a great deal of respect for them. People are always going to look for a reason to bring them down,” Nelson also knew plaintiffs Tim Brooker and Paulita Brooker, going on a study trip to Greece with them. "I thought they were great people.”
The lawsuitAmong the allegations in a lawsuit filed by former professors Tim Brooker, Paulita Brooker and John Swails: •The Roberts family received complete housing benefits from Oral Roberts University including all associated costs, such as 12 Internet or cable outlets, wide-screen televisions, hot tubs, $15,000 cook stove and furnishings. The home has been remodeled 11 times in the past 14 years. •A longtime maintenance employee was fired so an underage male friend of Richard Roberts' wife could take the position. •Lindsay Roberts took a daughter and a "male companion” on an overnight trip to Branson, Mo., with all charges paid by the university. •Lindsay Roberts spent $39,000 at one clothing store in less than a year and has accounts at other stores. She reportedly has said, "As long as I wear it once on TV, we can charge it off.” •Meals are routinely prepared at the television center and sent to the home for testing, with Roberts making a "token payment” to comply with laws. •Roberts "maintains complete, total control” of the university's airplane and passenger list, with family or friends taking precedence over employees. •The jet was used to take a Roberts daughter and friends to Orlando and the Bahamas for a senior class trip at a cost of $29,411. •ORU maintains a stable of horses for the exclusive use of the Roberts children. •Employees did homework for the children, who submitted it as their own to Victory Christian School. •The Roberts children are paid $200 per song on the television show with a random student paid the same rate as justification. •Lindsay Roberts personally awarded 13 non-need, nonacademic scholarships to friends, two of them academically ineligible for admission. •Dormitories received extensive structural modifications for the exclusive use of the Roberts' daughters, and all costs passed on to the university. •Tapes were produced of one of the minor Roberts children vandalizing and illegally removing athletic equipment from university property. •Richard Roberts' 2,000-square-foot home office was remodeled into a walk-in closet to accommodate the needs of his wife's wardrobe. •The university/ministry pays for all the family's home and cell phone expenses without limits. •Records indicate Lindsay Roberts needed 21 cell phones in two years. Fifteen of her bills during that period exceeded $800 per month. Four months had text messages in excess of 800. Many of those messages were sent between 1 and 3 a.m. to underage males who were provided phones at university expense. •The university provides and stocks a commercial soda machine in the garage of the Roberts home with all expenses being borne by the university.