Former president claims dispute could have been settled out of court.
By John Wright and Brandon Wolf
Former Pride Houston president Francisco “Frankie” Quijano broke his silence on Monday, November 27 concerning a lawsuit filed against him by the organization.
In a statement provided to OutSmart by his attorney, Angie Olalde, Quijano suggested that the dispute should have been resolved out of court.
“While I’m unable to speak for Pride Houston, I can say that to force a decade-long volunteer to retain counsel is disappointing when there were other options available—such as holding a meeting,” Quijano said in the statement. “In the best interest of all parties involved, I pray that a resolution can be reached with haste.”
The lawsuit, filed October 23 on behalf of current Pride Houston board members, alleges that Quijano refused to relinquish control of the organization’s business assets—including social-media and bank accounts—after he was replaced as president effective October 1. The lawsuit also alleges that Quijano harassed and threatened current board members.
In response to the lawsuit, State district judge R.K. Sandill ordered Quijano to turn over passwords and other information necessary to access the accounts, and barred him from acting in any way on behalf of Pride Houston, pending a trial set for April 2.
U.A. Lewis, the attorney representing current Pride Houston board members, did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Quijano’s statement.
In court documents and hearings, Quijano has argued that he remains president and CEO of Pride Houston because Lo Moton-Roberts was not duly elected to replace him. Quijano, who led the organization from 2011 until October, claims Moton-Roberts had not spent a sufficient amount of time on Pride Houston boards and committees.
Olalde, who represents both Quijano and his husband, co-defendant Abijah Kratochvil, also commented publicly on the lawsuit for the first time Monday, after previously saying she and her clients were barred from discussing the case under a confidentiality agreement.
“After raising concerns to other board members—including whether Ms. Roberts can serve as president if she does not meet the bylaws requirements—they were sued. The issues in this case could have been resolved out of court, and both Mr. Quijano and Mr. Kratochvil hope this suit comes to a speedy resolution,” Olalde told OutSmart.
Kratochvil said in a statement that after serving with Pride Houston for three years, he was invited to join the board as a voting member in September, but has not been able to attend any meetings due to the lawsuit.
“Before this lawsuit, I raised concerns regarding qualifications, expenses, and partnerships/contracts, and made documentation requests that have gone unanswered to this day,” Kratochvil said. “What should have been a very simple internal discussion has forced me, a volunteer, to retain counsel to maintain my good name. I believe Pride’s resources would be better used in other areas.”
Community leaders react
Jack Valinski began volunteering for Pride Houston in 1982, and spent 25 years working for the organization, including a stint as executive director.
“I hope it becomes a transparent organization, and that it is responsive to the community, [with] open meetings that are at set dates,” Valinski said. “This is an organization that basically [exists] to represent the community, and we haven’t seen that in 10 years.
“We don’t know how this new administration is going to turn out. It could be just as bad,” Valinski added. “I’m still not sure that they have a perspective on the community. I also hope that there is an audit of the books that is made public.”
Ray Hill, who served as chair of Pride in the late 1970s and early 1980s, said he does not believe the organization has been operating according to the rules for 501(c)(3) nonprofits in recent years.
“I knew in advance, from just watching what was going on, that they were headed for some trouble,” Hill said. “They did not structurally match what they said they were—and that would be fine, except there are papers to sign.
“Get back within the rules, stay within the rules, and throw us a party that nobody will forget,” Hill added.
Carol Wyatt-Woodell, a former Pride president who served as grand marshal of the 2017 parade, said that, for better or worse, Pride Houston is the recognizable “brand” of the local LGBTQ community.
“In an ideal world, Pride Houston would be the glue that brings all the organizations in our community together, and would also represent the best of us to our allies, sponsors, and financial supporters who enable us to do all the good work we do,” Wyatt-Woodell said. “I am hopeful that the new Pride leaders are embracing this concept, and I for one pledge to do everything I can do to help them deliver on that mission.”
Judge hears testimony
Following a three-hour hearing on November 16, Judge Sandill handed down a preliminary injunction barring Quijano and Kratochvil from acting on behalf of Pride. The injunction effectively extended the terms of a previous restraining order against the defendants.
During the hearing, Moton-Roberts and Pride Houston board member Jeremy Fain testified that Quijano worked closely with Roberts during the past year to prepare her to take over as president. Roberts and Fain also testified that Quijano never questioned Roberts’ qualifications during that period, or at the time of her election.
Lewis, the attorney representing Pride Houston and current board members, said Roberts has been involved in the organization for six years. In addition to serving on nearly every Pride Houston committee, Roberts spent one year as a non-voting board observer and one year as a voting board member, Lewis said. Quijano maintains that a board observer is not a board member, and that the organization’s bylaws require two years of board service before one is eligible to become president. However, the bylaws don’t appear to make such a distinction between board observer and board member.
Roberts testified that without the injunction, she believes Quijano would continue to hold himself out as president of the organization. Fain testified that he believes Quijano would continue to negotiate contracts on behalf of Pride Houston. Fain also alleged that nearly three-quarters of the contracts Quijano signed as president were finalized before board members knew about them.
During a meeting of the current board on November 14, members voted unanimously to remove Quijano from his position as board observer, which he assumed after Roberts was elected president.