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President of Oral Roberts steps down

November 24, 2007|From the Associated Press

TULSA, OKLA. — The president of Oral Roberts University, who is accused of misspending university funds to support a lavish lifestyle, resigned from his position, officials said Friday.

Richard Roberts' resignation is effective immediately, Board of Regents Chairman George Pearsons said in an e-mailed statement.

Roberts and the university have come under fire since a lawsuit was filed by three former professors.

The suit includes allegations of a $39,000 shopping tab at one store for Roberts' wife, Lindsay; a $29,411 Bahamas senior trip on the university jet for one of Roberts' daughters; and the purchase of a stable of horses for the Roberts children.

Roberts, son of school founder and televangelist Oral Roberts, had been on temporary leave from the evangelical university he had headed since 1993, fighting the accusations. In a recent interview, the couple denied wrongdoing.

Roberts has said the lawsuit amounts to "intimidation, blackmail and extortion."

He said in a statement Friday: "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."

The professors also allege in their lawsuit that Roberts required students in a government class to work on Republican Randi Miller's Tulsa mayoral campaign.

Roberts endorsed Miller -- as a private citizen, not as a representative of the university, he said at the time. (Miller was defeated by Democrat Kathryn L. Taylor.)

He has said he did not order students to work on Miller's campaign.

Plaintiff Timothy Brooker accused the school of forcing him to quit as a professor after he warned Roberts that requiring students to work on Miller's campaign jeopardized the university's tax-exempt status.

In the weeks since that lawsuit was filed, others have cropped up, including one from a former senior accountant who has alleged that the Robertses ordered him to help them hide improper and illegal financial wrongdoing.

The school's provost had told regents he could not "in good conscience serve under" Roberts, saying he would quit.

Roberts recently received a vote of "no confidence" from the tenured faculty.

The school's regents will meet Monday and Tuesday to determine action in the search process for a new president, Pearsons said in the statement.

Executive Regent Billy Joe Daugherty will assume the president's administrative responsibilities, working with the school until the regents' meeting, the statement said.

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