The Associated Press
TULSA, Okla. — A civil lawsuit brought by a former Oral Roberts University accountant accusing past school leaders of financial wrongdoing should be tossed because a key part of the suit already was dismissed by a judge, a new legal motion claims.
In a 12-page argument filed Tuesday in Tulsa County District Court, attorneys for the evangelical school wrote that the court already has given Trent Huddleston “more than a fair opportunity to re-plead his claims in a viable fashion, but plaintiff has failed to do so.”
Last month, Huddleston’s attorneys filed a motion arguing the case should go forward based on his claims of fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, civil conspiracy and interference with a business relationship.
At a hearing in November, District Court Judge Michael Gassett dismissed the wrongful discharge claim from Huddleston’s suit because his attorneys couldn’t prove his firing violated public policy of the state of Oklahoma, a test known as the Burk tort. The judge also ordered Huddleston’s attorneys to file a brief explaining why his other claims should go forward after that dismissal.
Jo Anne Deaton, an attorney for the school, said Thursday that Huddleston’s camp has failed to provide facts “that would support the other claims they’ve asserted.”
“I think there’s a good chance the court will dismiss everything at the hearing,” Deaton said. “We’re very optimistic.”
Gary Richardson, an attorney for Huddleston, said he stands by the case.
“The only thing lawyers can do is put forth their best arguments and wait and see what the judge says,” Richardson said. “We, of course, feel like we’re right.”
The next — and possibly last — hearing in the case is set for Jan. 27.
Huddleston’s lawsuit, filed in November 2007, names former ORU President Richard Roberts and his wife, Lindsay, as defendants. Also named are 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 claims 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.
Recently, the school completed a separation agreement with Roberts, which will pay him $447,200 in salary for the remaining term of his appointment, which was to run through November of this year.
The Associated Press