A recently released report outlining the findings of a Title IX investigation launched against former Humble ISD Athletic Director Troy Kite alleged the common use of sexually explicit comments within the department.

The overview

HISD trustees voted to release the report during the board’s April 9 meeting following a nearly yearlong investigation into a Title IX complaint filed against Kite. Trustees voted to accept Kite’s retirement during the same meeting.

Kite married HISD Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen in 2023 after disclosing their relationship to the board in March 2022, district officials said. Fagen said she recused herself from the investigation in May.

District officials said Interim Athletic Director Carlesa Dixon will continue to lead the athletics department until further notice.

While Kite said he took full responsibility for the use of explicit language, he pushed back against several other claims outlined in the report. Additionally, Kite said he believes investigators failed to follow proper procedures.

A closer look

Following the investigation, Giana Ortiz—a lawyer with The Ortiz Law Firm who wrote the report—recommended the district terminate Kite’s employment.

“This recommendation is made based on the finding of [Kite’s] Title IX sexual harassment creating a hostile environment within the Humble ISD Athletic Department by using sexually explicit language to and about employees in the athletic department,” Ortiz said in the report.

In an April 23 interview with Community Impact, Kite acknowledged inappropriate comments were made among staff members within the department, but he said he doesn’t believe anything he said constituted sexual harassment.

“It was an unprofessional setting that I allowed, and I’m so regretful for that,” Kite said. “But do I believe what I did was sexual harassment? To the day that I die, on my kids, I did not do that.”

Kite said he also questioned the process in which outside legal counsel was brought in to assist with the investigation.

During the board’s Jan. 10 meeting, trustee Martina Lemond-Dixon said several outside legal counselors who had not been approved by the board were sitting in on closed-session discussions.

At the same meeting, a representative from the district's legal department said it was up to the discretion of the board president or superintendent to bring in outside legal counsel.

However, during a Feb. 15 special-called meeting, trustees approved an item ratifying retainer agreements with four separate legal firms to assist with the investigation.

Trustee Robert Sitton raised concern over the retainer agreements during the meeting.

“The normal procurement process is to do a request for qualification,” Sitton said. “These attorneys that are being presented tonight have not gone through the same process, so I’ve got a very strong disbelief that we’re even doing this now. They have been working on these investigations for 10 months.”

At a March 19 meeting, trustees voted to approve a retainer agreement with an additional law firm to assist with the investigation.

Ellen H. Spalding, who provides legal counsel for the district, confirmed the law firm that was approved did not go through the district’s normal procurement process, but she said she didn’t believe the district was opening itself up to any potential legal repercussions.

“This isn't to get regular legal advice on day-to-day matters or to serve as regular board counsel,” Spalding said. “I don't believe you're opening yourselves up by not following your typical process for handling law firms that typically advise you.”

In response, Sitton asked whether Spalding believed the district was opening itself up to potential legal action for approving the retainer agreement on March 19 when the firm began providing counsel on March 8.

“I believe the reason you’re doing this is to try to move the process along as expeditiously and efficiently as possible,” Spalding said. “As long as you have legitimate reason for the reason you are taking these back actions, I don’t believe you are opening yourself up [to legal action].”

Sitton said he did not believe the district had legitimate reason to approve the agreements after services had been provided.

“I don't see the legitimate reason in each of these events that have happened the last few months, because we've had meetings in the interim where we could have approved the contracts on the front end,” Sitton said. “It's almost like we're trying to cover our backside in our approving it after the fact. It’s just my opinion, but this is becoming a habit, and I really don't care for it.”

At the April 9 board meeting, trustee Marques Holmes said he believed the district had already spent $500,000 on legal fees related to the investigation, but he noted the number was probably closer to $600,000-$700,000.

District officials could not confirm the cost of legal fees incurred related to the investigation to date. In response to a public information request filed by Community Impact, a representative from legal firm Walsh Gallegos said there were no responsive documents currently in existence.

Also of note

The investigation into Kite nearly forced a vote on the removal of Fagen during the April 9 meeting.

An agenda item listed below the item to accept Kite’s retirement called for “possible action regarding employment and duties of superintendent." However, no vote was held and no action was taken regarding Fagen’s employment with the district.

During the meeting, Holmes, Lemond-Dixon and Sitton each expressed their support for Fagen, with Lemond-Dixon noting she was shocked when she saw the item on the agenda.

While no board members offered any details into Fagen’s potential removal or commented on the item during the meeting, Kite said he believes Fagen was unfairly targeted because of the investigation.

“For [Fagen] to be dragged into this is heartbreaking,” Kite said. “It should never have been the superintendent’s husband. It should have been Troy Kite.”

On April 17, HISD officials confirmed Fagen had been named one of five finalists for the open superintendent seat in the Washoe County School District in Nevada. According to WCSD's website, the search process has taken several months, with the goal of selecting a new superintendent in May.

What’s next

In the report, Ortiz suggested the district’s athletic department create a confidential reporting mechanism for any employees who believe they have witnessed or experienced sexual harassment, retaliation or other inappropriate behavior.

Additionally, Ortiz suggested the department should create and employ sexual harassment awareness and prevention training as well as bystander intervention training.

District officials confirmed they would implement all of the recommendations outlined in the report.

At an April 23 budget workshop, district officials said there are no concrete plans yet for finding Kite's replacement.