Scandal Rocks Oral Roberts University

There's trouble brewing up at Oral Roberts University - just 100 miles east of AC - down I-44, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. No, God isn't "calling him home" unless Oral raises at least eight million dollars. Three former ORU professors – Dr. John Swails, Dr. Tim Brooker and Dr. Paulita Brooker -- filed a lawsuit October 3rd in Tulsa District Court against ORU; son Richard Roberts, now ORU university president and evangelist; and three university administrators.

ORU president Richard Roberts is accused of coercing Professor Tim Brooker in 2005 to assign students and use university resources to work on a local Tulsa politician's election bid, Tulsa County Commissioner Randi Miller, in her bid for city mayor. That would be a violation of state and federal law, since ORU is a 501 (c)(3) tax exempt, nonprofit church organization.

In January 2006, Roberts publicly announced that he was backing Miller for Tulsa mayor. Prof. Brooker said, "I was told to get my students and get down there and help Randi Miller." "We were told, 'Use whatever resources are at your disposal,' " Forty to 50 students worked on the campaign. The lawsuit alleges that Richard Roberts and ORU administrators intentionally participated in a cover up conspiracy to thwart an Internal Revenue Service investigation looking into partisan political activity by ORU. The lawsuit contends ORU gave incomplete, or at the very minimum, intentionally misleading responses to written IRS interrogatories. The plaintiffs allege they were wrongfully terminated, constructively discharged, or forced to resign subsequent to the IRS investigation; and fired in retaliation for forwarding evidence of other ministry financial wrongdoing to the ORU supervisory board of regents.

The lawsuit includes a summary of a report allegedly developed by Richard Roberts' sister-in-law, Stephanie Cantese, that claims the Roberts family used ORU and Oral Roberts Ministries money for personal expenses. Cantese works for Oral Roberts Ministries.

The lawsuit charges:

-ORU's corporate jet was used to take one daughter and several friends on a senior trip to Orlando, Fla., and the Bahamas. The $29,411 plane trip was billed to the ministry as an "evangelistic function of the president."

-Richard and Lindsay Roberts' home
has been remodeled eleven times in the past fourteen years. (Ed: At least third tithe wasn't used for the remodeling!)

-A longtime maintenance employee was fired so that an underage male friend of Lindsay Roberts could have his position.

- Lindsay Roberts - who is a member of the board of regents and is billed as ORU's "first lady" on the university's Web site - frequently had cell-phone bills of more than $800 per month, with hundreds of text messages sent between 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. to "underage males who had been provided phones at university expense."

-Lindsay Roberts spent more than $39,000 at one Chico's clothing store alone in less than a year, and had other accounts in Texas and California. She also repeatedly said, "As long as I wear it once on TV, we can charge it off." The document cites inconsistencies in clothing purchases and actual usage on TV.

Lindsay Roberts was given an white Lexus SUV and a red Mercedes convertible, insurance paid by ministry donors.

-University and ministry employees are regularly summoned to the Roberts' home to do the daughters' homework.

-The university and ministry maintain a stable of horses for exclusive use by the Roberts' children.

One of Richard and Lindsay Roberts' children vandalized and removed athletic department equipment from ORU property.

-Lindsay Roberts routinely uses ministries security personnel during personal vacations.

-Lindsay Roberts awarded 13 non-need-based scholarships to friends of her children, two of whom had test scores below ORU's admission requirement; and more.

-The summary of the report in the lawsuit says ORU provides Roberts with housing and claims ORU also provides 13 Internet/cable connections, wide-screen televisions, hot tubs, a $15,000 stove;

-Other alleged expenses include remodeling of dorm rooms for Roberts' daughters, $51,206 worth of clothes, phone bills, a soda machine exclusively for the family, meals, airplane trips, vehicle rentals, and more, according to the lawsuit.

Dr. Tim Brooker said that days after the professors gave the report to administrators, Cantees called him and threatened that his wife would lose her job and his son would not graduate from ORU. His wife, Dr. Paulita Brooker, was fired, and department chair Dr. Swails.

Richard Roberts, son of university founder Oral Roberts, said he pays for his family's personal expenses, contrary to allegations in the lawsuit. Roberts issued a written statement outlining strict current accountability measures for ORU and Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association finances. The Roberts family's expenses related to ORU or the association are charged to those organizations, and the family's personal expenses are charged to Roberts, the statement says. "Any expenses, including trips, errands, food, etc., deemed personal are charged back to me and are paid personally by me on a monthly basis," Roberts said in the statement. An "independent audit firm reviews financial transactions and controlling procedures" and produces an annual report, according to Roberts' statement. Outside auditors also write an annual report on the compensation of administrators and their relatives. The board's and association trustees' audit and compliance committee receives the reports.

Not to worry, though ;-) Oral Roberts, 81 and presently residing in Newport Beach, California, may be getting ORU 'back on track' this time. Roberts routinely visits his father in Newport Beach and bills the costs of the trip to the university. Televangelist John Hagee, a ORU board of regents member, said the university's executive board presently "is conducting a full and thorough investigation." How comforting. On the flip side of the coin, however, the court filing quoted Richard Roberts as saying "if a Regent appears to give me trouble, I stack the deck..."


Anonymous said...

doh...here we go again! Chosen Ones + Money = Scandal. Here comes the 900 foot Jesus again!

Anonymous said...

In 1979 a book was published by Jerry Sholes, a former employee of Oral Robert ministries, which detailed deep deception and hypocrisy:

"Here is a portrait of the real Oral Roberts, the man not too many of his admirers know. He dresses in Brioni suits that cost $500 to $1000; walks in $100 shoes; lives in a $250,000 house in Tulsa and has a million dollar home in Palm Springs; wears diamond rings and solid gold bracelets employees `airbrush' out of his publicity photos; drives $25,000 automobiles which are replaced every 6 months; flies around the country in a $2 million fanjet falcon; has membership, as does his son Richard, in `the most prestigious and elite country club in Tulsa,' the Southern Hills (the membership fee alone was $18,000 for each, with $130 monthly dues) and in `the ultra-posh Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California' (both father and son joined when memberships were $20,000 each--they are now $25,000); and plays games of financial hanky-panky that have made him and his family members independently wealthy (millionaires) for life. (When his daughter and son-in-law were killed, they left a $10 million estate!)" (Evangelist R.L. Sumner's review of Give Me that Prime- time Religion by Jerry Sholes)

"By the mid-1980s, Oral Roberts had come to be the chief executive officer of an organization that employed about 2,300 people and did an annual business of about 110 million dollars, about 60 percent of which was raised through contributions." (p. 485)

Anonymous said...

Ya, but that's still childs-play compared to the grand master of religious ripoff, Herbert W. Armstrong! I don't think the grand huckster can be matched when it comes to deep deception and hypocrisy either.

Anonymous said...

Something Goooood is going to happen to yoooou!