ORU Hit With 3 New Lawsuits

Does Richard Roberts have a prayer?

A senior accountant for Oral Roberts University, Trent Huddleston was ordered to help school president Richard Roberts and his wife, Lindsay, “cook the books,” by hiding improper and illegal financial wrongdoing from the authorities and the public, a lawsuit claims, filed November 21st in Tulsa.

Huddleston was hired in 2006 and spent 15 months at the school. He was responsible for recording the fixed assets of the university and delegating them to several corporations formed by the defendants named in the suit, which include the Robertses, the university, the ministry and school’s board of regents.

Huddleston claims in the wrongful termination lawsuit that he was directed against his will to falsely list thousands of dollars as expenses rather than assets — which were spent remodeling the home of Richard and Lindsay Roberts — in order to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies.

He says the couple co-mingled and spent university and ministry funds, and that funds donated by one church were spent on the Roberts’ home.

He claims nearly $123,000 in expenditures were paid by Oral Roberts University and Oral Roberts Ministries for remodeling the home. He said more than $40,000 of university and ministry money went for a new swimming pool and nearly $5,000 was spent on a pool table.

Huddleston claims he was instructed not to contact certain departments or individuals about expenditures and was not allowed to question their authenticity.

He claims he was discharged on the day an audit was to take place. The audit was ordered by the school’s regents two weeks after three professors brought a wrongful termination lawsuit against ORU accusing Richard Roberts of misusing school funds to support a lavish lifestyle.

Huddleston’s lawsuit states that his discharge came “in retaliation for his refusal to remain silent about the fact that the defendants were committing illegal acts with regard to the finances of the various parties.”

Causes of action set forth in the lawsuit include constructive discharge, fraud, civil conspiracy, tortious interference with business relationships, naming Richard and Lindsay Roberts, ORU, Oral Roberts University and Ministry Boards, and Oral Roberts Ministries.

Two others were filed on behalf of ORU students Cornell Cross II and David Brown. Both claim ORU’s wrongful termination of the three professors, John Swails and Tim and Paulita Brooker, ruined the reputation of their degrees. Brown states that he cannot complete his degree at ORU because of Swails’ termination and is looking to transfer schools. Cross says an attempt to transfer will invalidate half the credits he earned at ORU.

“This was a complete, 100 percent destruction of the degree,” Cross said Wednesday.

The lawsuits come after more than 80 percent of ORU faculty voted this week against Roberts continuing as president at the 5,700-student school.

Next week, the school’s regents are expected to discuss that vote, as well as a similar one cast last week by tenured faculty members giving Roberts a “no confidence” vote as president, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.

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