By Brandon Wolf
Francisco “Frankie” Quijano is arguing in court that he remains president of Pride Houston Inc., despite a vote by the organization’s board to elect Lorin Roberts to replace him effective Oct. 1.
Attorneys for Quijano and Abijah Kratochvil, his husband and codefendant, made the claim in response to a lawsuit filed against them on Oct. 23 by Pride Houston and its board of directors. The lawsuit alleges that Quijano, who served as president and CEO from 2011 until this year, has refused to relinquish the organization’s assets, including access to its bank and social media accounts, in addition to harassing and threatening current board members.
In response to the lawsuit, Quijano’s attorneys argued in a court filing Tuesday, Oct. 31 that Roberts wasn’t duly elected because she does not meet requirements under the organization’s bylaws for serving as president and CEO. Specifically, Quijano alleges that Roberts had not spent the required amount of time serving on the Pride Houston board or on particular committees.
The filing states that the current dispute arose over the October 2017 Pride Houston election, in which there were two nominees—Quijano and Roberts. Quijano declined to run, and Roberts was elected to serve as the incoming president and CEO of Pride Houston beginning Oct. 1.
“Concerned about how Roberts’ failure to qualify could affect Pride Houston–including its ability to enter into contracts and continue its business–Quijano suggested that the board meet and discuss a means for transition that would permit Roberts to perform the duties of President and CEO,” the filing states. “Under the bylaws, Quijano holds office until a duly qualified successor is elected.
“Despite Quijano’s concern and repeated requests to discuss the situation, Roberts and the board refused to do so,” the filing continues. “A production team meeting was held on October 21, 2017, which Quijano and Kratochvil attended. At that meeting, there was no mention of this lawsuit or any attempt to oust Quijano or Kratochvil from the board. Roberts handed an envelope to Quijano at the end of the meeting, which Quijano returned to her, unopened.”
The filing asks the Court to declare that the bylaws require Quijano to remain in his position as president until a duly qualified replacement is elected, and to declare that Quijano and Kratochvil were removed from the board without good cause.
U.A. Lewis, the attorney representing Pride Houston, called Quijano’s allegations “meritless.”
“The challenge to the unanimous vote in the election of Lorin Roberts, after Quijano nominated her, is meritless, and once properly raised we will address the allegation,” Lewis told OutSmart.
During a hearing in Harris County’s 127th Civil District Court on Tuesday, Quijano was required to turn over passwords and other information needed to access Pride Houston’s bank and social media accounts, as stipulated in a restraining order from Oct. 23.
Lewis, Roberts, Pride Houston board member Jeremy Fain and others huddled in a conference room outside the courtroom to go over the information Quijano had provided.
After several hours, Lewis told Judge R.K. Sandill that Quijano had failed to provide information about Pride Houston’s American Express credit card and Bank of America line-of-credit.
One of Quijano’s attorneys, Angie Olalde, initially told Sandill that the credit card was tied to Quijano’s personal American Express card, and that the line of credit account was tied to his personal bank account. Olalde said providing access to either would violate the privacy of Quijano’s personal accounts.
Sandill expressed surprise when he learned that the nonprofit organization’s accounts were tied to Quijano’s personal ones, and offered suggestions for allowing access without violating his privacy. After Olalde rejected Sandill’s suggestions, the judge called Quijano to testify under oath.
In his testimony, Quijano said that the Pride Houston American Express card and his personal card were not, in fact, linked. Asked if he will relinquish access to the Pride Houston card, Quijano responded that he would. Quijano, who attended the hearing with Kratochvil, also stated that the Bank of America line of credit account is tied to his personal bank account. Asked if he would turn over the last 12 months of statements, he agreed to do so.
The requested information is due to Sandill at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 3. The transfer will take place in the Sandill’s office. If the requested information is not sufficient, another hearing will be scheduled for next Monday, Nov. 6.
According to Lewis, Sandill has also quashed subpoenas from Quijano’s attorneys that were served to her office last week. The subpoenas sought records related to board meetings, as well as “any emails, text messages or other form of communication in 2017 sent or received by Lorin Roberts regarding any purported misconduct on the part of the Defendants with respect to their actions as officers of Houston Pride.”