The longtime leader of LSU’s Alumni Association is retiring amid allegations that he had entered into a monetary arrangement with a former employee to keep secret a sexual relationship between the two.
In his letter of “voluntary resignation/retirement” on Wednesday, former Alumni Association President and Chief Executive Officer Charlie Roberts again denied the allegations laid out in Kay Heath’s lawsuit, which claims Roberts gave Heath a marketing job with the alumni group so she would continue a sexual relationship with him and then paid her monthly hush money after she resigned.
“I am confident that I will successfully defend the lawsuit,” Roberts wrote in the letter, which was submitted to the alumni group at 4 p.m. Wednesday. “However, I cannot stand by and let my continued active employment be a magnet for her obvious determination to destroy the association.”
Roberts announced last week that he was taking voluntary, paid time off to fight the lawsuit. Heath responded by offering to drop the Alumni Association from her suit in exchange for Roberts’ firing or permanent resignation.
“Charlie wanted the Alumni Association out of this,” Roberts’ attorney Mary Olive Pierson said of his resignation Wednesday. “They don’t have anything to do with it.”
Heath’s lawyer, Jeffry Sanford, didn’t respond to requests for comment Wednesday, following Roberts’ announcement, which went out through the university’s media relations office. LSU last week announced that it was launching an inquiry in response to the allegations, in cooperation with the Alumni Association, which runs as a separate entity.
The lawsuit claims Roberts, 78, offered Heath, 63, payments of $3,200 a month for the rest of her life if she kept their alleged relationship secret. It says she sued Roberts and the LSU Alumni Association after the payments stopped last month.
Roberts, who has admitted to a personal relationship with Heath and to personally providing her financial assistance, said in his resignation letter that “none, as in zero” of the money he gave to Heath after she quit her job came from the Alumni Association.
“They were all made with my personal discretionary funds,” he wrote.
In his statement last week, Sanford said Heath felt so strongly that Roberts was “a continuing threat to women at the LSU Alumni Association,” that she would “immediately dismiss the LSU Alumni Association from the lawsuit the minute” he was fired or resigned permanently.
Roberts, who made at least $300,000 a year as president of the Alumni Association, had overseen LSU’s alumni operations since 1984 — originally as a vice chancellor. Roberts took on his most recent role in 1990, after the Alumni Association was split off to an independently-run nonprofit. The association in June named its lifetime achievement award after Roberts.
The Alumni Association is one of three main nonprofit organizations that help support LSU but are run separately from the university. Its main mission is to build up relationships with LSU graduates, produce the LSU Alumni Magazine and host alumni events. It reported $7.3 million in revenue in 2011 and $4.2 million in 2012, according to its IRS filings.
Meanwhile, the university’s main fundraising arm, the LSU Foundation, brought in more than $68 million in 2012, and the Tiger Athletic Foundation, which primarily raises money for athletic efforts, raised more than $55 million. The two foundations have their own boards and staff.
On Monday, Alumni Association Chief Operating Officer Cliff Vannoy, who was named acting CEO last week, posted an online message for LSU alumni that urged support for the Alumni Association, amid the allegations against Roberts. Vannoy’s message, posted to the Alumni Association website, also explained the group’s role, which is separate from the university’s main fundraising arms — the LSU Foundation and the Tiger Athletic Foundation.
“We look forward to working with you and for you as we embark upon the next chapter in our history. It is critical that we — alumni and friends of LSU — lead the way for our university. Thank you for your loyalty and your generous support,” Vannoy wrote.
Heath started working in marketing for the Alumni Association in 2007.
Her lawsuit claims that she was in a personal relationship with Roberts before that. She needed a job so she could divorce her husband and continue her relationship with Roberts, the suit claims.
It also alleges that in April 2012, Roberts told Heath that association rules barred the personal relationship between the two and one of the two needed to resign because some members of the association’s board had found out. The lawsuit claims at least one member of the association’s board knew about the alleged payoff scheme.