Judge Tosses Former ORU Accountant's Civil Suit

Monday, March 2nd 2009, 1:54 pm
By: News On 6

Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A district judge on Monday dismissed the final claims of a lawsuit brought in 2007 by an ex-Oral Roberts University accountant who said he was ordered by former school officials to "cook the books."

The dismissal by District Court Judge Michael Gassett leaves one lawsuit pending against ORU stemming from a financial scandal that embroiled the evangelical school and led to the resignation of its president, televangelist Richard Roberts.

The final suit deals with former student David Brown, who claimed in 2007 that ORU's firing of one of his professors caused a breach of contract. A decision on that case could come later this month.

Former accountant Trent Huddleston's lawsuit against ORU appeared to already be hanging by a legal thread coming into Monday's hearing.

12/18/2008 Related story: Accountant Wants ORU Lawsuit To Go Ahead

Gassett previously dismissed his claims of fraud and wrongful discharge. And on Monday, he dismissed claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, civil conspiracy and interference with a business relationship.

Jo Anne Deaton, an attorney for ORU, said her clients felt "vindicated" following the hearing.

"We are pleased with Judge Gassett's ruling," she said. "We expected him to make this ruling based on the facts of the law.

"We're confident the facts will hold up on appeal," she said.

Paul Boudreaux, Huddleston's attorney, pledged to appeal the ruling.

"We just totally disagree," he said of the ruling. "Mr. Huddleston will be back."

Huddleston's case had been in district court since November 2007, and had recently been delayed due to attorney illnesses and the recent ice storm.

It named former ORU President Richard Roberts and his wife, Lindsay, as defendants. Also named were two-dozen former regents and well-known televangelists.

The suit claims Huddleston discovered an "unrestricted" account used to funnel large sums of money through the university each month -- which would exceed $1 billion on an annual basis -- that wasn't used for any legitimate university purpose.

He also claimed he was ordered to help Richard and Lindsay Roberts "cook the books" by hiding improper and illegal financial wrongdoing from authorities and the public.

Huddleston, who was hired in 2006 and spent 15 months at the school, also alleges former ORU board members participated in funneling the money for their eventual personal use, "and thus, the foxes were watching the hen house."

Richard Roberts resigned as president in late 2007 amid allegations he and his wife spent school money on home remodels, lavish vacations and a stable of horses for their daughters.

He stepped down days after Huddleston's suit was filed and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.