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University leader granted leave amid lawsuit

  • Story Highlights
  • President Richard Roberts' Oral Roberts University being sued
  • Roberts to step aside temporarily until matter is resolved
  • Three fired professors allege they were fired for revealing misspending
  • Roberts and wife deny spending university funds improperly
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(CNN) -- Richard Roberts said he will step aside temporarily as president of Oral Roberts University as the school fights a wrongful termination lawsuit by three former professors who accuse Roberts and his wife of misconduct.

"Today, I have asked the board of regents of Oral Roberts University to grant me a temporary leave of absence until such time as these matters can be resolved," Roberts said in a written statement Wednesday.

"I have prayed about it, and feel that it is in the best interest of my family and the university."

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month, contends the professors lost their jobs at the Tulsa, Oklahoma, university after reporting information indicating that Roberts and his family lavishly spent school money for personal expenses.

Roberts has denied the allegations.

"I don't know how long this leave of absence will last, but I fully trust the members of the board of regents," his statement said. "They are great men and women who have a deep love for this university and for me and my family. 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 of Regents, in a written statement, said it had granted Roberts' request.

"The ORU Board of Regents regrets that the university family has had to endure this situation during recent weeks," the board's chairman, George Pearsons, said in the statement.

"We have a deep appreciation for the work that is being done by administration, faculty and staff at ORU. The board is fully committed to supporting the efforts of the independent outside professional firms that will review the allegations and the practices in place at the university and report back to the board."

The board said Wednesday it has named Billy Joe Daugherty as acting president, along with founder Oral Roberts.

During an interview last week on CNN's "Larry King Live," Richard Roberts had said he would not seek a leave of absence.

"I've not done anything for which I should have to step aside," he said.

The lawsuit alleges that Roberts and his wife, Lindsay, used a university-leased jet to send one of their daughters and her friends on a Bahamas vacation. The Robertses told Larry King they repaid the university for the use of the jet.

Another allegation is that they spent tens of thousands of dollars renovating their home at university expense. The couple told King that floors with black mold needed to be replaced, and the university owns the home. Video Watch the plaintiffs explain their lawsuit »

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.
  • The lawsuit was amended recently to accuse the school of giving a "convicted sexual deviant unrestricted access to students" and of shredding evidence three days after the suit was first filed.

    It also alleges that Lindsay Roberts has repeatedly spent time alone with an "underage male" in various situations, including in her car at night after a citywide curfew, and in the ORU guest house at night "on nine separate occasions." The suit does not cite sexual behavior.

    In a statement posted on its Web site, the school said, "The allegations that the university employed a sexual deviant are untrue. The allegations that the university purposely or improperly destroyed documents are also untrue."

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    Lindsay Roberts, in an online statement, said the allegations against her sicken her to her soul.

    "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. These allegations cast a dark cloud on me, my family, the ministry, and the university family," Lindsay Roberts said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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