Tulsa, Okla — Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts asked for and was granted a leave of absence Wednesday amid accusations of lavish spending at donors' expense and illegal involvement in a political campaign.
The 58-year-old son of the evangelist who founded the school said he would continue in his role as chairman and chief executive of Oral Roberts Ministries, and decried what he said were untrue allegations.
"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 news release issued 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."
The board said Billy Joe Daugherty, the senior pastor of Victory Christian Center in Tulsa, will temporarily assume the president's duties with help from Oral Roberts, 89, who is chancellor of the 5,700-student university but has left day-to-day operations to his son.
An Oct. 2 lawsuit filed by three former ORU professors says they were wrongfully dismissed and accuses Roberts of misspending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodels and a senior trip to the Bahamas for one daughter on the ministry's dime.
It also accuses 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 ORU Board of Regents.
George Pearsons, the board's chairman, 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 professors' 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 an internal ministry report, titled "Scandal Vulnerability Assessment," documenting allegations 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 internal report 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 issued Saturday, Lindsay Roberts said, "I live my life in a morally upright manner and throughout my marriage have never, ever engaged in any sexual behavior with any man outside of my marriage as the accusations imply."
"The last three weeks have taken a serious toll on me and my family," Richard Roberts said in the news release 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."