Oral Roberts president exits amid scandal

TULSA, OK. (CBS/AP) -- Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts asked the school's board of regents for a leave of absence Wednesday amid accusations of lavish spending at donors' expense and illegal involvement in a political campaign.

The allegations have rocked the Bible Belt university, known for its 60-foot bronze statue of praying hands, reports CBS News affiliate KOTV. Roberts, 58, said he would continue his role as chairman and CEO of Oral Roberts Ministries.

"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 statement released 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."

An Oct. 2 lawsuit cites an internal report that says the Roberts allegedly remodeled their home 11 times in 14 years, used the university jet for personal trips, and forced members of the university to play an active role in a political campaign, something that is banned for non-profits such as the university, reports CBS News correspondent Hari Sreenivasan.

Three former ORU professors filed the suit and say they were forced out after turning over this information to the board of regents.

Their 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.

Posted by KO

The Associated Press and CBS News contributed to this report.