The rumors started in July. Where was Greater Boise Auditorium District Board Member Mike Fitzgerald? He had already attended a few GBAD board meetings by phone, but on July 11, his physical absence was conspicuous, and by the Aug. 11 session, Fitzgerald had attended the majority of the year's GBAD meetings via phone.
"It's not anything secret. Mike's over in Eastern Idaho," Pat Rice, general manager of Boise Centre told BW. "But you really have to bring that up with him."
BW attempted to contact Fitzgerald no fewer than six times regarding his absence before asking GBAD board Chairman Hy Kloc about the matter.
"I heard that rumor," said Kloc. "I asked Michael point blank, 'Did you move to Idaho Falls?' He told me he was on assignment for Johnny Carino's." Johnny Carino's is an Italian restaurant. When asked why Fitzgerald had not responded to BW's inquiries, Kloc said it was in Fitzgerald's "best interest" to answer our questions. Fitzgerald called BW within an hour of our conversation with Kloc.
"You need to understand this," said Fitzgerald. "Right now, this [GBAD] board is complete mayhem. We have a couple of people on the board who will twist anything into what they want people to hear."
Fitzgerald was referring to board members Stephanie Astorquia and Judy Peavey-Derr, who have found themselves in the minority on most 2011 votes while Fitzgerald, Kloc and board member Gail May have been in the majority.
"Look, I was hired by an outfit out of Austin, Texas, to temporarily come to Idaho Falls and fix a restaurant for them," said Fitzgerald. "Depending on how I do here, they may send me back to Boise. They may send me somewhere else, or they may simply thank me for my service."
Fitzgerald said that even though there was no definitive end-date to his stint in Idaho Falls, he sought legal counsel on the matter. After consulting with an attorney, Fitzgerald said that he was still technically a resident of the Greater Boise Auditorium District. He wouldn't tell BW which attorney he consulted or whether the attorney had any formal relationship with the GBAD board.
"It's plain and simple. We're still residents of the district," said Fitzgerald, confirming that his wife had moved to Idaho Falls as well. "But we go back and forth to Boise."
BW learned that Kloc consulted an attorney with the Hawley Troxell law firm, which represents the GBAD board.
"They said if three points were met, Mike was still considered a resident," said Kloc. "No. 1, his car is still registered here. No. 2, he is still registered to vote here, and No. 3, he intends to move back here."
Fitzgerald was hired for his new job in March and sent to Eastern Idaho on July 1.
"This is a 12-year-old restaurant that was underperforming," said Fitzgerald. "I'm here to fix it. If they send me someplace else, we'll see what happens."