Every passing week in the Oral Roberts University scandal that began over a month ago seems to bring fresh controversy and potentially more damaging light on its current President, Richard Roberts and his attempts at avoiding the lawsuit’s accusations.
The public side of the ORU scandal began on October 2nd when several former professors from Oral Roberts University’s history and government department filed a lawsuit against ORU’s President, Richard Roberts, and several other high-ranking members of the school’s administration. The lawsuit alleges that the professors were wrongfully terminated for resisting illegal political maneuvering and for presenting a document (a “Scandal Vulnerability Assessment” prepared by Richard Roberts sister-in-law) to the school’s Board of Regents.
The Oral Roberts University lawsuit has attracted national attention because the “Scandal Vulnerability Assessment” included in the lawsuit refers to numerous claims and pieces of evidence that the Roberts family have misused and abused ORU funds for personal use and that Lindsay Roberts might have had inappropriate sexual relations with an underage male.
Initially, Richard Roberts denied all wrongdoing and refused requests to step down, even temporarily, from his office as President of Oral Roberts University. Nonetheless, as national attention increased and the full “Scandal Vulnerability Assessment” was released (which included the more salacious reports of Lindsay Roberts inappropriate involvement with the underage male), Richard Roberts took a leave of absence from his post at the university.
Since then, Victory Christian Center pastor Billy Joe Daugherty (recently re-instated as a member of the Board of Regents after he stepped down due to a falling-out with Richard Roberts earlier in the summer) has taken the position of President of the University for the duration of Richard Roberts’ absence. Founder of the university, Oral Roberts, has also returned to Tulsa from his home in California to “help” lead the school and to assure the public that Richard Roberts would be completely absolved and returned to his position as President. However, George Pearsons, chair of the school’s Board of Regents, says they will do whatever is necessary when the investigation is complete, even if it means permanently removing Richard Roberts against Chancellor Oral Roberts’ wishes.
In the meantime, Richard Roberts has been continuing to work at his TV ministry as a part of Oral Roberts Ministries. An employee of the TV studio there has informed me that Richard Roberts has held a meeting with staff and has commented on the situation. According to this source, Richard Roberts has said, “some of the accusations are false, and some are true, but have been twisted.” He is also reported as saying, “through this situation, God has shown [us] mistakes that need to be corrected, and [we] are going to correct them.”
However, Richard Roberts’ statements in public are decidedly different from what he has told some of his employees. In a recent legal motion filed by Richard Roberts, it is stated that “Dr. Roberts denies each and every allegation or inference of wrongful conduct related to the plaintiff’s claims involving wrongful termination.” Quite different from “some are true” or that there are “mistakes that need to be corrected”, he has again publicly denied “each and every allegation or inference of wrongful conduct.”
In this same legal action, filed October 26th, Richard Roberts seeks a gag order against the Professors’ right to speak publicly concerning the lawsuit, saying the publicity received has been “especially damaging” to them and that it might hurt their chances of receiving a fair trial. In another legal action filed that same day by Roberts’ lawyers, it is stated that the “Scandal Vulnerability Assessment,” prepared by Richard Roberts’ sister-in-law, was included in the document to “harass and injure Dr. Roberts and his family” and that it demonstrates “the dishonorable motivations behind plaintiffs’ lawsuit.” The day after the professors’ original lawsuit was filed on Oct. 2nd, Richard Roberts also stated in the University’s school-wide public chapel service that, “This lawsuit… is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion.”
Although Richard Roberts doesn’t want the professors to have the ability to speak publicly about the lawsuit, Richard Roberts has spoken publicly about it numerous times, including an appearance on Larry King Live’s national television show. Several times he has stated that the professors’ personal intentions with the lawsuit were dishonorable (even calling it “blackmail”) and Richard Roberts’ recent legal actions describe the professors’ lawsuit as a scheme that they’ve devised for “a quick, lucrative settlement.” However, the professors themselves have only spoken about the lawsuit and their wrongful termination, not about Richard Roberts’ personal intentions or the factuality of the document prepared by Roberts’ sister-in-law.
The same day that Richard Roberts’ attorneys sought the gag order against the professors, they also filed legal actions attempting to have the first and second revision of the lawsuit thrown out and “treated as if it was never filed.” The legal action claims that the professors’ lawsuit was not properly formatted and resembled a “fictional short story.”
More recently, on Friday, November 2nd, Richard Roberts’ attorneys filed another legal action requesting that the professors’ attorney, Gary Richardson, be disqualified from representing the professors in the lawsuit. The new filing also asked the court to force the professors to participate in mediation in lieu of an actual court trial.
The legal action states that Gary Richardson’s representation of the professors constitutes a “conflict of interest” by stating that the author of the “Scandal Vulnerability Assessment”, Stephanie Cantees, Richard Roberts’ sister-in-law, is a “long-term” client of Gary Richardson’s. However, Gary Richardson says that Stephanie Cantees sought his services for several lawsuits in which he ultimately declined to represent her. Richardson’s law firm was in charge of Cantees’ divorce settlement, but he states that he has never personally been her attorney.
Richard Roberts’ newest legal action also presents Cantees’ first statements about the situation. In it, Cantees states that she spoke to Gary Richardson about the “stolen” document and how to “recover” it after she learned that Brooker (one of the professors filing the lawsuit) had a copy of it. Gary Richardson states “that Stephanie Cantees has never discussed any of the matters pertaining to the lawsuit with me.” It can be assumed that Richardson is referring specifically to the termination of the professors, the primary allegation in the lawsuit, since the “Scandal Vulnerability Assessment” was just provided as the document which supposedly got the professors fired. If Richardson has not been specifically consulted or retained by both opposing parties regarding the current lawsuit, as he claims, then there is technically nothing to constitute a “conflict of interest” or any other reason to prevent him from representing the professors.
On top of this, Roberts’ most recent legal action requests that the court force the professors to engage in mediation outside of court. Previously, the professors have stated that they tried to engage in mediation with Roberts and the Board of Regents concerning the illegal political involvement and the “Scandal Vulnerability Assessment,” but that they were threatened instead. Now that Richards’ attorneys have been seeking mediation with the professors for the last few weeks, they have refused, stating that they will not engage in mediation until the Roberts stop “telling the public that they’ve done nothing wrong.”
Roberts’ first legal action, October 26th, asked for a court hearing to happen soon in order to “avoid further prejudice to defendants.” On October 31st, a court hearing for the lawsuit was set for December 11th in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Now, in Roberts’ most recent legal action, filed November 2nd, he attempts to have the professors’ lawyer removed and force the professors to engage in mediation outside of court.
It seems that if Richard Roberts would just state publicly what he told TV studio employees, that “some facts are true” and that “there are mistakes that need to be corrected,” he may have his wish of mediation with the professors. However, his recent legal actions seem to demonstrate that he is not willing to publicly follow through with what he has said in private. Instead, it seems that Richard Roberts is again engaged in attempts to shush any mention of wrongful conduct on his part, this time attempting to use the court of law to keep the professors quiet.
For those of us concerned with the current state and future of Oral Roberts University, we can only hope that a distorted use of law won’t prevent whoever is at fault here from being brought to justice. I completely believe that an open and honest presentation of the facts in a court of law is the best hope for justice to be served.