Tulsa: October 2007 Archives

Religion News Blog has set up a special category for stories relating to the lawsuit against Oral Roberts University by three former professors.

One of the more recent items is this overview of the ORU controversy that ran in Sunday's Oklahoman. The story provides an overview of the Oral Roberts-related entities, the various subsidiaries, compensation received by Richard and Lindsay Roberts, and key figures on the board of regents:

The Board of Regents at ORU is a mix of professionals from around the country. But the majority are heads of large ministries with a presence on either Trinity Broadcasting Network or Daystar Television Network.

Many, like Oral, Richard and Lindsay Roberts, are self-professed faith-healers and teach the Word of Faith or Prosperity Gospel.

The story mentions that four of the regents -- Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, John Hagee, and Creflo Dollar -- head ministries that have received "F" grades for transparency from ministrywatch.org.

Meanwhile, the ministrywatch.org home page features a 20/20 story from March about financial accountability. The group tracks over 500 ministries and provides detailed, balanced, and informative reports.

Two ORU professors and an adjunct professor who were fired late this summer have filed a lawsuit in District Court against Oral Roberts University, ORU President Richard Roberts, and several other university officials.

You can read the plaintiffs' petition here on the Fox 23 website (PDF format).

The suit alleges that Roberts directed Professor Tim Brooker to mobilize students and university resources to support the 2006 mayoral campaign of County Commissioner Randi Miller. Brooker says that he advised against involvement as a violation of the university's tax exempt status and as contrary to his personal policy for political science students getting practical campaign experience: "We don't do local politics because it turns neighbors into enemies." Roberts overruled his objections. The suit alleges that Roberts' order violated the school's articles of incorporation and the faculty and administrative handbook and policy statement.

When the IRS came calling a couple of months later, Brooker was told he was to be the fall guy (the suit alleges), to accept responsibility for the school's involvement in the Randi Miller campaign and to shield President Roberts and the school from any repercussions. He also would have to suffer disciplinary procedures for his violations of school policy, even though those violations were ordered by the administration.

Brooker later came into possession of an internal document -- a "compendium itemiz[ing] numerous and substantial acts of misconduct and improrpieties by Defendants ORU and ROBERTS." The lawsuit goes on to provide

a summary of the information contained in the draft of the internal Oral Roberts Ministry report developed by ORM Community and Governmental Liaision [sic], Stephanie Cantese [sic], sister-in-law of Richard ROBERTS. The report appears to be a confidential assessment of potential vulnerability for legal, moral, political and ethical problems of the ROBERTS family, Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association and Oral Roberts University.... Some of the more salacious entries -- of which the Defendant ORU, Defendant ROBERTS, and members of the Board of Regents are painfully aware -- have been omitted from this Petition to preserve, as much as possible, the remaining positive image of the University.

What follows is four pages of small print that paints a picture of people who are treating the funds and assets of ORU and ORM as their own personal property.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs are Gary Richardson, who ran as an independent for Governor in 2002, and Paul T. Boudreaux. There are a number of sloppy typos in the petition, which surprises me -- the spelling of Stephanie Cantees' name, time line issues (saying that Brooker was hired by ORU in 2007, obviously a typo). I assume these would be corrected in an amended petition.

Oral Roberts University is an important asset to our community. I daresay it has attracted more energetic and entrepreneurial people to Tulsa as students who then become long-term residents than a dam or a pedestrian bridge or an arena ever will. Whoever is responsible for the decision, getting the university involved in Randi Miller's campaign for Mayor was foolish politically, legally, and ethically. This is a sad day for Tulsa.

MORE: I wrote a couple of blog entries about ORU's apparent involvement in the Randi Miller mayoral campaign:

Oh, are you in for it now! (January 27, 2006)

ORU really in for it now! (February 2, 2006)

That second entry links to Steve Roemerman's entry which includes the January 16, 2006, e-mail purportedly from Tim Brooker recruiting student involvement in Randi Miller's campaign.

UPDATE 2007/10/03: A couple of interesting comments were posted to today's Tulsa World story on the lawsuit, and it stirred some recollections.

To untangle the references: Brandon Brooker is the son of Tim and Paulita Brooker, two of the parties to the lawsuit. Toby is Toby Huyssen, who was Randi Miller's campaign manager. The second commenter is referring to an encounter at The Fountains, following the Republican Men's Club luncheon, when I asked Brooker about the Miller campaign recruitment e-mail.

Toby Huyssen later took the blame for sending the Miller campaign recruitment e-mail under Brooker's name. I remember thinking, when the Tulsa World finally reported on the Brooker e-mail on February 27, 2006, that it was strange that Brooker seemed to defend the e-mail when I asked him about it on January 20. If he hadn't actually written it, why didn't he tell me that he hadn't written it and that they were trying to find out who had?

I also recall someone tipping me off to the departure of a couple of ORU students from LaFortune's campaign, something hinted at in the comments below. I seem to recall it was mentioned in the ORU student newspaper. If I remember more, I'll post it here.

1. 10/3/2007 2:16:50 AM, Anna , Dr.Roberts i have gotten 4 calls we are all signing papers to send to you. We saw Mrs. Broker write the e mail - she was mad after son left Lafortune's campaign brooker got Toby Brandon's job as campaign manager. Brandon is a skilled as a campaign manager amd thats why his blogs above Brandon I notice he is leaving off Brooker said he got a nice letter of reccommendation to take with him to Coburn when he left the campaign to get a full time job for Coburn. Toby had no experience running a campaign. We all knew Toby lived in an off campus apartment with your son Brandon.We went there to hear him play his guitar. The students are right you live in Silom Springs and drive every day, Toby's mom lives in Germany. Toby told 3 of us he agreed to take the hit about writting the email when it looked like Dr. Mrs. Brooker was going to get in trouble for sending it. Your husband came to him and reminded him about doctoring up his admission papers for him so he could live off campus with Brandon, Toby told us he felt obligated. We got scared that he might be kicked out of school, the computers are password protected and have all our grades and information and under firpa thats big- Brooker promised he could get Swales to go along with a slap on the wrist.

2. 10/3/2007 2:28:56 AM, current student, tulsa
Brooker being forced to do Miller's campaign absolute bogus. Brooker's roommate toby was fired by Mayor Lafortune's campaign and Brooker let everyone know how furious he was. Brooker and Dr. Mrs. Brooker his wife sent out a firey e mail "we have been challenged and we must defend our honor" and made a plea for us to join with her in Randi campaign as our honor has been challenged by Lafortune. Dr. Roberts was out of the country because my roommate went with him on medical missions. So how did Dr. Roberts force him? Before President Roberts ever came out for Randi Miller brooker was organizing the young republicans and getting the on board to seek revenge on LaFortune who he bleived treated his sons roommate bad. This is pure crap. Til now i went with the story Dr. Brooker but no more.

First you make Toby take the hit for your wife then you lie and say Toby sent it we had wittnesses who are you kidding. you talked bad about chris medlock because michale bates when we accompied you to the republican mens club forum michale challenged you all the way back you went after chris medlock and told us you are taking him on personally. This had nothing to do with President Roberts and I can give names of those who heard you say this. I worked for Kathy Taylor got credit and my roommate did MAyor Lafortune you said at the beginning of class we could work on any campaign for credit. Come on students if you were in his class that semester come out you know what he is saying. Dr. Brooker you resigned no one forced you out.. you did the same in 2006 when i was a first year student you told us you resigned. Many the got tired of it.

Let me try to parse that last paragraph:

First, you [Tim Brooker] make Toby [Huyssen] take the hit for your wife, then you lie and say Toby sent [the Miller campaign recruitment e-mail]. We had witnesses [to the contrary]. Who are you kidding? You talked bad about Chris Medlock, because Michael Bates, when we accompanied you to the Republican Men's Club forum, Michael challenged you. All the way back [from the luncheon to ORU], you went after Chris Medlock and told us you are taking him on personally.

TRACKBACK: Tyson Wynn has an excellent post looking at this lawsuit through the lens of financial accountability for religious institutions.

In much the same way that bad corporate citizens cost us all eventually, bad ministries cost all ministries eventually. No pastor I know would dare use God's coffers as his own personal piggy bank.... And the misery of it all is that because this has happened (if the allegations are true) to the big boys, there will be a regulatory response, placing more burden and regulation on all non-profits, from national and statewide ministries to the local church....

I currently serve on the Board of Directors for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. I have never seen a better run, more financially accountable and transparent organization. At our recent meeting, we learned that the BGCO has received an "unqualified good" rating from our external auditors again for 2006. If memory serves, the BGCO has had "unqualified good" ratings since the 1920s. Not only that, but all of our affiliates do, too.

The heart of the problem: Regents who won't rule, who are there as administration yes men, not a body holding the administration accountable for their stewardship.

Having worked in higher education, I can state that though woefully excessive in Roberts' case, university administration (especially presidents) are afforded great discretion and great potential for corruption in all institutions, private or public. What is needed are strong, independent Regents that are more committed to educational excellence, public accountability, and financial transparency than to the man or woman at the helm. Regent literally means a "ruler" or "one who rules." The more you deal with higher education, the less you see Regents as rulers and more as lobbyists and rubber stamps.

The list of ORU's regents, found in their 2005 IRS Form 990 filing (starting on page 18 of the PDF; kudos to the World for posting it), is a who's who of Word-Faith televangelists: Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Jerry Savelle, Benny Hinn, John Hagee, Marilyn Hickey, Jesse Duplantis.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa category from October 2007.

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