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Oral Roberts' son denies he misspent school funds

  • Story Highlights
  • ORU President Richard Roberts says he repaid school for using a leased jet
  • "I've not done anything for which I should have to step aside," says Roberts
  • TV pastor Oral Roberts: "If there is anything out of line, we will bring it into order"
  • Allegations are from suit by ex-professors who claim they were wrongfully fired
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(CNN) -- Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts, his wife, Lindsay, and his father Oral Roberts are denying accusations that family members improperly spent school money for home renovations, vacations and clothes.


Richard Roberts, with wife Lindsay, told CNN: "I've not done anything for which I should have to step aside."

The accusations stem from a lawsuit filed by three former ORU professors who claim the Tulsa, Oklahoma, university fired them after they reported the allegedly improper spending.

Richard Roberts told CNN's "Larry King Live" on Tuesday that "it sure seems" someone is out to get him. Richard Roberts' father, university founder and televangelist Oral Roberts, told King he supports an investigation.

"If there is anything out of line, we will bring it into order, like we have always done," Oral Roberts, 89, said. The university's Board of Regents said earlier Tuesday it will hire an auditor to look into the accusations of misconduct.

It would be inappropriate to ask whether he would temporarily step aside as head of the university during the audit, Roberts said. "I've not done anything for which I should have to step aside," he said. Video Watch more on the scandal at Oral Roberts University »

"I can't say how much this has hurt my family," he said.

Lindsay Roberts called the allegations "preposterous."

"So many of the allegations deal with my children and me, and I'm not even employed there." Lindsay Roberts said she has never met the former professors who brought the suit.

Each of the three plaintiffs is suing for more than $20,000 in damages, in addition to attorney fees and court costs.

Information about possible improper use of university funds by the Roberts family came from a computer belonging to Roberts' sister-in-law, who loaned it to a student, according to the lawsuit.

The student found the information and reported it to Dr. Tim Brooker, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, who turned it over to regents in July.

The sister-in-law, who serves as a government and community liaison, routinely makes notes of rumors she hears in the community and checks them out with the couple, said Richard and Lindsay Roberts.

Lindsay Roberts said the allegations were shown to Richard Roberts several years ago, and he said he dismissed them.

The Roberts defended themselves against the suit's allegations, including one accusation that the family used a university jet to send one of their daughters and her friends on a trip to the Bahamas.

Richard Roberts said his daughter and her friends accompanied him on a preaching trip to Florida and the Bahamas, aimed at recruiting students to ORU.

"I had to pay the university back for that," he told CNN, adding that the jet is not owned by the university; it is leased.

In response to an accusation that the university was charged for 11 home renovation projects over 14 years, the couple said the walls and floors of their home had to be removed because of black mold.

The university paid for the repairs, they said, because the school owns the home. Any other changes they have made to the home have been minor, Lindsay Roberts said.

The suit also alleges that, according to university-paid cell phone bills, text messages were sent early in the morning from Lindsay Roberts' phone to underage males who had been provided phones at university expense.

Lindsay Roberts said she routinely allows her daughters and their friends to use her cell phone, and it was likely the messages were from them to other youths.

Richard Roberts said the couple mentors youths with drug and alcohol problems and sometimes has contact with them at odd hours.

Other allegations listed in the lawsuit include:

  • Lindsay Roberts spent more than $51,000 on clothes and told university employees to cover up the costs.
  • Lindsay Roberts' Lexus SUV and Mercedes Benz convertible were provided for the university's use by donors, who also pay the insurance costs.
  • Cell phone bills for Lindsay Roberts and her three daughters run more than $800 each month.
  • Richard Roberts books speaking engagements in cities his daughters wish to visit, and then charges all travel expenses to the university.
  • Bishop Carlton Pearson, a former Oral Roberts protege, told CNN Tuesday that Richard Roberts was "born into privilege."

    "What others may call extravagance he may not see it as extravagant," said Pearson. He said he was disappointed but not surprised by the allegations.

    "These kinds of things are common among family-owned and operated businesses and ministries," Pearson explained. "They don't cross every T and dot every I."

    Plaintiff Brooker also alleges in the lawsuit that he was made to take the blame after directing -- at the order of Roberts -- the campaign of one of Roberts' friends who ran for mayor of Tulsa.

    Brooker said he repeatedly refused the order at first, citing its illegality for a tax-exempt organization like the university, but Roberts ordered him and his students in the school's political department to help the campaign.

    Later, when the Internal Revenue Service questioned the university's involvement in the election campaign, Brooker said he was ordered to write a narrative in which he would "fall on the sword" and accept responsibility for helping the mayoral candidate.


    Richard Roberts told King he never asked any professor to take part in a campaign, but said ORU government students often do so.

    The university, he said, "has a long-standing policy with our government students to be involved in campaigns." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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