accused its founder, Larry Jones, of taking bribes and hiding hard-core
pornography, among other offenses, in a lawsuit filed last week in Oklahoma
The civil action comes more than a month after the board of
directors fired Jones Nov. 6 after he admitted to hiding microphones in the
offices of top executives who opposed him. The ministry later accused him of
taking a $22,000 bribe from a supplier.
Photo: Larry Jones, shown with his wife Frances, has been the face of Feed the Children for 30 years.
Jones, 69, has denied all wrongdoing. He filed a wrongful
termination suit Nov. 10, claiming the ministry board terminated him “for
reasons of personal malice and spite and not for any authorized cause.”
Feed the Children responded with a countersuit Dec. 28 that
alleges Jones misspent ministry funds, pocketed money given to pay his travel
expenses and kept gifts from speaking appearances. It also says hard-core
pornographic magazines were found in Jones’ office.
During a press conference last week, Jones defended himself
against the board’s allegations. “What they’re trying to do is build a
case up against me so that will hold up,” Jones said, according to The Oklahoman. “It won’t hold up. … I
didn’t do anything.”
Jones said he intended to send the pornographic magazines to
a ghostwriter helping him with a series of novels, including one about AIDS in Africa called The Zipper Disease. He said the magazines were meant to explain to the writer how
bad pornography has become.
“I’m not a dirty, old man,” Jones said, according to the newspaper. “All
of this was done for research.”
The lawsuits are the latest in an internal battle that
culminated with Jones’ termination after he admitted to hiding microphones in three executives’ offices, including that of his daughter, who is the ministry’s general counsel. Jones said he planted the devices to record his conversations
because his comments were being misinterpreted. Oklahoma prosecutors decided
not to file any charges, The Oklahoman
The ministry said Jones also was fired because board
directors believe he solicited a $22,000 bribe from a supplier. Jones said he
asked for assistance with legal expenses and the vendor misinterpreted his request,
the Oklahoma City newspaper reported.
The ministry said it found further evidence
of wrongdoing after Jones was terminated. In addition to the pornographic material, Feed the
Children’s attorneys said documents were found in Jones’ office showing that he
was regularly paid by Affiliated Media Group (AMG), which purchases TV time for Feed
the Children’s fundraising spots and for other ministries.
The ministry alleges that Jones hid the payments, and that he
secretly entered into a three-year contract with AMG and persuaded the company
to hire his son.
Jones said he has never taken a bribe. He told the newspaper that AMG paid him roughly
$10,000 a month in commissions because he recruited ministers to use the
company to air their own broadcasts before or after Feed the Children’s spot.
Jones said the arrangement helped lower the cost of purchasing airtime and that the payments stopped several years ago.
“The owner said to me, ‘Hey, man, you’re one of the
best salesmen I’ve got. I don’t feel right you doing this without
remuneration.’ I said, ‘Whatever you want to do is fine with me.’ … It was
the same as … what his salesmen were getting,” Jones told The Oklahoman.
Jones did not deny helping his son get a job with AMG.
“There was nothing wrong with that,” he said. “If you came to me and said you
wanted your son to go work for me and your son was capable in an area we needed
him, then what would be wrong with that?”
Feed the Children said in a statement that it is strong and continues to fulfill its mission. It
said officials have been working for two years to end Jones’ “systematic pattern of
freewheeling dominance” of the organization.
“We believe that Larry started out as a man with a mission to help
children and families. We will continue that mission,” Feed the Children board
chairman Rick England said. “Additionally, we will continue to
defend this organization.”
Jones has been the face of Feed the Children for 30 years
and worried last fall about its year-end fundraising initiatives.
“This is crazy,” Jones told The Oklahoman last week. “I’m
not saying they can’t live without me, but everywhere I go, people say, ‘Feed
the Children is Larry Jones and Larry Jones is Feed the Children.”‘