Oral Roberts President Granted Leave of Absence Amid Scandal

Embattled Oral Roberts University president Richard Roberts was granted a temporary leave of absence Wednesday, amid accusations of lavish spending at donors' expense and illegal involvement in a local political campaign.

The school's board of regents named Billy Joe Daugherty, the senior pastor of Victory Christian Center in Tulsa, as the temporary replacement, along with Roberts' 89-year-old father, Oral, the founder and chancellor of the 5,700-student university. The announcement came in the middle the university's fall break, a period when many students were away from campus.

Roberts, 58, said he would continue his role as chairman and CEO of Oral Roberts Ministries.

"I don't know how long this leave of absence will last, but I fully trust the members of the Board of Regents," Roberts said in a statement released by the university. "I pray and believe that in God's timing, and when the board feels that it is appropriate, I will be back at my post as president."

George Pearsons, chairman of the ORU Board of Regents, said he will meet Friday with the outside firm charged with investigating the allegations.

"Nothing is being swept under the rug, nothing is being hidden," he said late Wednesday.

The allegations in the Oct. 2 lawsuit have rocked this Bible Belt university, known for its 60-foot-tall bronze statue of praying hands and 1960s,space-age architecture.

It was filed by three former ORU professors who said they were wrongfully dismissed and alleges the spending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodels and a senior trip to the Bahamas for one daughter on the ministry's dime.

It also accused Roberts of illegal involvement in a local political campaign, which would jeopardize the university's nonprofit status.

The professors say they were forced out after turning over this information to the school's board of regents.

Their suit was amended last week to include new allegations that documents were shredded and destroyed days after the initial lawsuit was filed, and hours after ORU and Richard Roberts fired the school's comptroller.

The amended complaint also included a complete internal ministry report documenting numerous acts of misconduct by the university and the Roberts family. Only a partial report was included in the Oct. 2 lawsuit.

The more detailed account alleges Richard Roberts' wife, Lindsay, spent the night in the ORU guest house with an underage male "on nine separate occasions," and was photographed 29 times with an underage male in her sports car, among other allegations.

The report, titled "Scandal Vulnerability Assessment," was prepared by Stephanie Cantees, Richard Roberts' sister-in-law. An ORU spokesman said Cantees would not comment on the report.

An ORU student repairing Cantees' laptop discovered the document and later provided a copy to one of the dismissed professors.

In a statement, Lindsay said she lived her life in "a morally upright manner" and never engaged in any sexual behavior with any man outside of her marriage as the accusations implied.

"The last three weeks have taken a serious toll on me and my family," Richard Roberts said in a statement Wednesday. "The untrue allegations have struck a terrible blow in my heart. The untrue allegations of sexual misconduct by my wife have hurt the most."

Gary Richardson, attorney for the dismissed professors, said his clients are ready to "prove the truth of the fact they were fired after providing the information off Stephanie Cantees' computer to the board of regents."

"I want to know why they fired these guys," Richardson said.