Move Follows Lawsuits, Allegations

By Ziva Branstetter
Tulsa World
November 24, 2007

Embattled Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts resigned Friday following nearly two months of allegations that he and his family misused university and ministry resources.

Richard Roberts

In his resignation letter, Roberts states: "I love ORU with all my heart. I love the students, faculty, staff and administration and I want to see God's best for all of them."

Roberts' letter, sent to the Board of Regents, states his resignation was effective Friday. The board is meeting Monday and Tuesday to determine its search process for a new president, university spokesman Jeremy Burton said in a statement.

"Executive Regent Billy Joe Daugherty will continue to assume administrative responsibilities of the office of the president, working together with Chancellor Oral Roberts, until the regents meeting," Burton stated.

The announcement follows weeks of bad news for Roberts and the university, including an overwhelming faculty vote of "no confidence" in Roberts and a state ment by Provost Mark Lewandowski that he would resign if Roberts were allowed to return.

Several faculty members said Friday

they had heard the board was poised to vote next week on whether to retain Roberts as president. He has been on a leave of absence since Oct. 17, a few weeks after three former professors filed a lawsuit against him, ORU and other defendants in Tulsa County District Court.

Rhae Buckley, president of the ORU Alumni Association board, said he hopes the university moves quickly to find a new president.

"I'm not surprised. I know that Richard really loved the university and he wants to do what he feels is right for the university," Buckley said.

Cornell Cross, an ORU student who filed a suit against the university last week, said: "It's an excellent second step in fixing the university. Now we just need the board to continue to do what is expected of them."

Among other claims, Cross' suit alleges his degree has been devalued by the controversy.

John Swails, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by the former professors Oct. 2, said Friday he was "completely taken by surprise" when he heard Roberts had resigned. Swails was professor and chairman of the history, humanities and govern ment department before he was fired.

"I felt like from all the indications this was going to be a fight to the very last. . . . It's kind of sad that it has come to this. Based on what we know, for the good of the university he should have stepped down much, much earlier. I understand that students are leaving and money is diminishing."

ORU announced recently it was $52 million in debt.

Larry King (left) interviews Richard and Lindsay Roberts on CNN on Oct. 9 after a lawsuit was filed by three former Oral Roberts University professors.

Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson, who filed the suit on behalf of Swails and two others, said he expected Roberts to resign.

"To those that know what the evidence is that's come forth and those who know what is anticipated to follow, it's absolutely no surprise. We wouldn't have been surprised had it happened weeks ago."

Richardson said the lawsuit will continue, regardless of Roberts' resignation. He said the plaintiffs are open to mediating the lawsuit's claims.

"It could be a move in the right direction to be able maybe one day sit down and discuss mediation," he said.

The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Timothy Brooker, who coordinated ORU's government program, and his wife, Paulita Brooker, an adjunct professor who was first hired for the ORU School of Lifelong Education.

They sued ORU, Roberts, Lewandowski, Dean Wendy Shirk and Vice Provost Jeff Ogle. The former professors also claim that the Board of Regents neglected to properly oversee ORU, Roberts and administrators.

The lawsuit claims that Roberts required Brooker to make his students work for Tulsa mayoral candidate Randi Miller's campaign, in violation of laws that prohibit nonprofit groups from getting involved in partisan political campaigns. It also claims the professors were fired or forced out after they brought the board a report containing a variety of allegations against Roberts and his wife, Lindsay.

The report contained allegations of misspending by the pair, including a $39,000 shopping tab at one store for Lindsay, a $29,411 Bahamas senior trip on the ministry jet for one of the Roberts' daughters, and a stable of horses for the Roberts' daughters.

Roberts issued a rebuttal to some of the lawsuit's allegations, saying many of the claims are either false or are misconstruing actual events. Roberts said some of the claims came from a report by his sister-in-law, Stephanie Cantees, who was paid to report rumors she had heard about ORU or the ministry.

An outside firm is conducting an investigation of the university. Sources said the report may be released to regents at their meeting next week.

Contact: Ziva Branstetter 581-8378


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