Published November 13, 2007
TULSA, Okla. – Embattled Oral Roberts University president Richard Roberts, facing accusations he misspent university funds to support a lavish lifestyle, has received a vote of no confidence by the tenured faculty at the evangelical university.
The resolution was approved by faculty Monday and obtained late Tuesday by The Associated Press. Faculty plan to distribute the nonbinding document to the school's Board of Regents and the faculty assembly at an upcoming meeting.
Donald Vance, a professor of biblical languages and literature who voted with the majority, said the vote by a quorum of faculty was "nearly unanimous," but he declined to give the exact tally.
"It's essentially how the university has been run," said Vance, who has taught at the 5,700-student school for 13 years. "We see the Board of Regents as allies wanting to do the right thing, but we're not sure they know everything and we're not sure they knew how the faculty felt."
Jeremy Burton, a spokesman for Oral Roberts University, declined to comment on the vote Tuesday.
Richard Roberts has been on temporary leave while an investigation into the school's finances continues.
Accusations of lavish spending were detailed in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed Oct. 2 by three former ORU professors. The lawsuit 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.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Richard and Lindsay Roberts denied wrongdoing. Richard Roberts has said the lawsuit amounted to "intimidation, blackmail and extortion."
Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson, who filed the lawsuit against ORU on behalf of the former professors, said he was "encouraged" to see that steps are being taken to preserve the university.
"When we filed the suit, I said I really personally believe that this lawsuit is very much like surgery," Richardson said Tuesday. "When there's disease in the body, sometimes it requires surgery in order for there to be healing."
Last week, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley announced a Senate investigation into whether six televangelists violated their organizations' tax-exempt status by living lavishly on the backs of small donors.
The Robertses were not among the six. But those targeted include three members of the school's Board of Regents: Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn.