Oral Roberts President Resigns

Associated Press
November 23, 2007

TULSA, Okla. — For many, the resignation of Oral Roberts University's embattled president, Richard Roberts, seemed to be a question of when, not if, amid the financial scandal that hit the school nearly two months ago.

Roberts, facing accusations in the lawsuit that he misspent school funds to support a lavish lifestyle, resigned Friday.

"Those who have seen what we have seen won't have any surprise about the fact that Richard has stepped down," said attorney Gary Richardson, who brought a wrongful termination lawsuit against Roberts last month on behalf of three of the university's professors. "There was no option, period."

His resignation is effective immediately, according to a statement e-mailed from George Pearsons, chairman of the school's Board of Regents.

Roberts said in a statement that he loved the university. "I love the students, faculty, staff and administration and I want to see God's best for all of them."

The school's regents planned to meet Monday and Tuesday to determine action in the search process for a new president, Pearsons said in the statement.

Executive Regent Billy Joe Daugherty will assume the president's administrative responsibilities, working with Oral Roberts until the regents' meeting, the statement said.

"This was an inevitable step that had to happen because of their arrogance," said former regent Harry McNevin, who quit the board in 1987 because of misspending he said he witnessed. "It's been 20 years that they've been doing the same things that I became aware of."

The recent lawsuit, filed Oct. 2, includes allegations of a $39,000 shopping tab at one store for Richard Roberts' wife, Lindsay, a $29,411 Bahamas senior trip on the university jet for one of Roberts' daughters, and a stable of horses for the Roberts children.

The professors also alleged that Richard Roberts required students in a government class to work on 2006 Tulsa mayoral candidate Randi Miller's campaign.

Roberts publicly endorsed Miller, but said then that he was doing so as a private citizen and not as a university representative. He has denied the lawsuit's claims that he ordered students to work on Miller's campaign.

Professor Tim Brooker, one of the lawsuit plaintiffs, accused the school of forcing him to quit after he warned Roberts that requiring students to work on Miller's campaign jeopardized the school's tax-exempt status.

In a recent interview, Roberts and his wife denied wrongdoing. Roberts has said the lawsuit amounted to "intimidation, blackmail and extortion."

In the weeks since the suit was filed, others have cropped up, including one this week from a former senior accountant who alleged that the Robertses ordered him to help them hide improper and illegal financial wrongdoing from the authorities and the public.

"After the filing of that suit, and the allegations of criminality, I saw no way he could survive," Brooker said.

John Swails, another plaintiff in the case, said, "It's sad in two ways for me, number one, that it's come to this and number two, that it took so long."

Richard Roberts "could have spared the university and the students by going ahead and stepping down and admitting his wrongdoing."

Cornell Cross II, a senior government major, said the resignation is "an excellent step to fix the university," but believes the school's most trying days lie ahead.

"There a lot of things that need to continue," Cross said. "The culture of fear that has been allowed to fester at ORU has to be looked into.

"We still haven't heard any admission of wrongdoing or any kind of humility or contrition," he said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.