On the day she was fired in June, the woman who oversaw the LGBTQ festival and parade in downtown Houston began tampering with the nonprofit’s records, according to a lawsuit brought by the current Pride Houston leadership .
Former executive director and president Lorin “Lo” Roberts is also accused of disclosing confidential information and violating their non-compete agreement by entering into vendor and sponsorship deals in the months following her notice, the lawsuit said. Pride officials said they misused funds and defrauded the organization’s board of directors.
“Due to their exclusive access to certain Pride Houston documents and property, the true extent of the damage caused by (Defendant) Roberts is currently unknown,” the lawsuit said.
Roberts said through her lawyer that the allegations were untrue. The dispute between Roberts and the festival management dragged on for the whole summer, which ultimately led to another injunction instructing Roberts to keep his distance until the matter comes to justice.
State District Judge Scot Dollinger’s injunction states that both sides had previously agreed that Pride Houston should have “access to their own data, records and accounts.” The judge’s order, renewed several times over the summer, prevents Roberts from using or inspecting the organization’s accounts and instructs them to inspect Pride Houston. She must also stop communicating with 1,900 sponsors on behalf of the organization, a court document said.
Pride Houston executive vice president and treasurer Kendra Walker said in August that the organization was still waiting to get access to information, including months of credit card bills. However, the group received four statements from Wells Fargo about a line of credit, Walker said Roberts did not disclose.
Roberts’ attorney said she followed the judge’s orders.
“She gave them everything they asked for, with one exception, that the financial information on the Wells Fargo bank account was not sent,” Jennings said in August.
According to the lawsuit, in addition to the violations after Roberts’ resignation, she used organizational funds while at the nonprofit to take a trip to Washington, DC to pursue a job at another organization, and canceled a board meeting, to hide the trip.
“This was a deliberate and deliberate abuse of Pride Houston Inc., funds received from donors, disrupting the activities of the board of directors and violating their non-competition / non-solicitation policies,” the new leadership said on the court records.
Roberts’ attorney told the Houston Chronicle that the trip to DC was professional. She then emailed that Roberts did not travel to DC in December 2020, as alleged in the lawsuit.
Walker, the group’s current vice president, said the trip to Washington that the group was concerned about was in December 2019. Board members knew Roberts had traveled to DC for an interview, but not that she had used an organization’s credit card to pay for travel until officials checked bills, Walker said.
The lawsuit states that while planning the 2020 Pride Parade, Roberts “lied to the board of directors and stated that approval had been obtained from the City of Houston.” Court documents also stated that Roberts falsely advised the board of directors that approval had been obtained for the 2021 celebrations.
“This is completely wrong,” said Jennings of the allegations related to the parade.
Robert’s attorney said there was evidence that the city offered an alternate route for the event and that Roberts had told the board that they could get a permit using the new route.
A letter dated March 2020 to Roberts was submitted as an exhibit by Susan Christian, the director of the Mayor’s Special Events Office. It states, “We have provided you with the Sam Houston Park alternative location, which is the only available option in this downtown area, and we have suggested other possible locations to your team.” It does not address the issue of approval for that Event 2020 treated.
Speaking of the 2021 celebrations, Jennings also said in an email that Roberts had made plans for the event – in June before she was fired.
The 2021 litigation isn’t the first time the organization has sued its former president. In 2017, Pride Houston sued its former president over concerns that the outgoing leadership had failed to turn Pride Houston’s assets over to Roberts, court records show. According to court records, this case was closed by mutual agreement.