UPDATE: Joe Luginbill releases statement, Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Center responds
It's been more than a week since organizations working out of the State Theatre were kicked out, and the Smile House project was shut down.
Friday we heard, for the first time, from the person at the center of the controversy.
Joe Luginbill released his first public statement since both the State Theatre and Smile House shut down, saying that he was in denial.
"We've all been in the dark as there's been no presence at all on social media or to us at all beyond a letter that we got that our lease was going to be terminated. So we're happy that he's made the decision to make a public statement," said Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center VP of Operations Daniel Bennett-Hardy.
Last week, the LGBTQ+ center was kicked out of the State Theatre after the power and heat in the building was turned off.
Bennett-Hardy say the center had paid rent in advance, totaling around $3,000.
"The number one question that we would have for Joe is are we going to be able to get our paid rent back. We did have a three year lease, we paid part of that in advance because that's our biggest cost for the organization. We want to make sure that we have the space," he said.
In a statement released Friday, Luginbill says in part,
"In the coming weeks and months I will work to make amends with the programs which I care about so dearly. Because I no longer am equipped to manage these programs with myself, I will be passing them on to other entities and organizations that can see them through. For that reason I am in the process of dissolving my foundation."
His first public statement comes after it was announced Luginbill resigned from the Wisconsin Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board earlier this week.
The Eau Claire Police Department also confirming on Friday, there is an active investigation of Luginbill regarding suspicious financial transactions.
Joe Luginbill, former School Board President, foundation president and state board member has released a statement regarding his absence and resignation.
The statement reads as:
"I feel it is important to make a statement to the media at this time. I know that my absence has led many to ask questions, and I regret how it has left people in the dark.
The truth is that for a period of several months I have been completely overwhelmed - I held on to unrealistic hopes of a “Hail Mary” that would support the success of two daunting projects, the State Theatre and the Smile House (as well as other programs and initiatives). I worked on these projects and others without receiving any salary and without employees.
Despite this and despite public support and encouragement, the level of donations simply did not keep up with the costs associated with operations.
More than anything, I was in denial. I was in denial to believe that I would be able to see the success of these projects on my own. I was in denial as bills added up and as more and more responsibilities were shifted to me. It is hard to cope with the fact that this had led people and
causes I care deeply about to be disappointed and hurt.
I want to apologize for retreating during this time of challenge and for not being in communication with the people I work closely with. In many ways, I kept people in the dark about the difficulties I had been going through.
In the coming weeks and months I will work to
make amends with the programs which I care about so dearly. Because I no longer am equipped to manage these programs myself, I will be passing them on to other entities and organizations that can see them through.
For that reason I am in the process of dissolving my
At this time, I am also pursuing treatment for mental illness. In many ways, my mental illness has been debilitating for me. It has been a root cause for the challenges I am currently facing. I have put off seeking such treatment for a very long time and feel it is vital that I receive it now.
I want to thank those who have sent messages of love and support during this time. Their understanding means so much to me, as does the support of my family and loved ones.
I have lived in the public eye since I was 18 years old, and I have devoted my entire adult life to public service. I have always tried to do what I feel is in the best interest of the causes and
programs I support. For the same reason, at this time I am retreating from the public life which I have cultivated to this point.
Through everything, I am holding onto my belief that there is a power greater than me and greater than any of us. I trust that force to guide me forward into the future. This will be my
only statement at this time. "
WEAU reached out to the President of the Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Center, Breana Stanley, who said,
"While we are glad that Joe has communicated publicly, he has yet to communicate directly with the center regarding how we are going to be reimbursed for our rent, or answer the questions we have. We are moving forward and hope to be in a new location in the coming weeks. We want to thank our community for rallying behind us in this trying time"