This morning local TV station WQOW announced that the Eau Claire Police Department launched a formal investigation into the finances of Joe Luginbill's family foundation in October.

Two of Joe Luginbill's friends and associates made statements today about the disappearance of Joe Luginbill from the local scene. As we had previously reported, Zoe Roberts is campaigning for re-election to the county board and Luginbill on her staff as treasurer. After the revelations of last week she replaced Luginbill on her campaign with UWEC Professor Selika Lawton. Today Roberts released this statement:

In the coming days and weeks we're going to learn a lot about Joe Luginbill and his dealings. Regretfully all I ever tried to be was a friend. I never knew of the things we're all learning about now. I feel shocked, betrayed, and deeply hurt. I sincerely hope he is brought to justice for any crimes he may have perpetrated on members of our community. Every day is a new revelation, and it appears as though I simply didn't know who he really is. But I wanted to believe in the vision of the goodness he promised to bring to Eau Claire. Had I known beforehand of these dirty dealings I would have cut ties with him long ago.

We need to remember that lots of good people have been affected by this in numerous ways. Some people lost their jobs, others lost money, and some were left out on the streets. My campaign, which is a small one, lost nearly $591 so far because we had to reprint literature with a new Treasurer. Thank you for helping me fix this Selika Lawton! I cannot thank you enough for stepping in and helping me at a difficult time.

I don't wish to speculate as to outcomes. This is an ongoing investigation both by the Police Department, and investigative journalists. The truth will come out!

But our community, though badly bruised and disheartened, needs to move forward. Joe has betrayed our trust, but our hearts will not be broken. We should be focusing on righting the wrongs done to the people upon which he preyed.

Thank you all!

Zoe Roberts

Earlier this week a local podcast, Cool and Unusual Punishment released a special podcast episode about the Luginbill story, which called out local media for a lack of fact-checking on Luginbill's back story and made several as-yet-unpublished allegations, most strikingly the claim that the sudden resignation of Eau Claire City Council president Kerry Kincaid was prompted by Luginbill blackmailing her with information he had about Kincaid. Although this is at this point simply an allegation, several people have confirmed off-the-record that they have knowledge that this story is likely true. The allegation is that this occurred in order to pass the presidency of the council over to Luginbill's friend Andrew Werthmann. This morning Werthmann released this statement on Facebook:

The recent news about Joe Luginbill has made me feel upset, betrayed, confused and heartbroken. I trusted him. I believed him. I supported him politically. I considered him a close friend. It’s deeply saddening for me to share that this past week has changed everything.

I saw a lot of good in Joe as I know many of you did. He was someone who repeatedly stood up for those most marginalized in our society. He fought for acceptance and against prejudice. He passed policies to support people struggling with mental health. I personally saw him carry friends and acquaintances through some of their darkest hours.

And yet, even without knowing the full story, even without knowing whether Joe became deeply overwhelmed with all of his commitments or something much worse, I am learning now how his actions over the past few years have caused a lot of hurt and pain in our community. Every day I’ve had people reach out to me and share devastating stories. Many are friends of mine. People who weren’t paid. People who had professional promises fall through. People who had their careers ruined.

Personally, I was lied to about some very serious actions he took. He made choices that were completely out of bounds, broke my trust, and should have no place in our community. As someone who counted him a dear friend, that break in trust hurts. If you’ve ever had someone close to you wrong you and others, go behind your back, let you down, you know what I mean. It’s painful... and I still haven’t processed it fully.

Joe stopped communicating with me a month ago. The last time I saw him we got lunch in early December. It felt like he was pulling away from Eau Claire and his friends, setting his sights elsewhere. In hindsight, it seems he was just looking to escape.

People are hurting. I know his family is hurting. I know Joe is hurting. I still hold hope that at some point in the future, Joe can grow fully into that caring helpful individual I know he wants to be. And I hope he works to undo some of the damage he caused. Maybe one day I’ll be able to forgive him, but for right now, we must hear the voices of those who were hurt by is actions and focus on how we as a community can heal.

A few hours before the story broke about Joe, I looked out over the petroglyphs in the photo above. They were carved in stone 1000 years ago by the Hohokam people of what is now present-day Arizona. Experiencing that expansive desert and seeing their timeless artwork helped bring perspective, helped remind me that the most important thing we leave behind, what really matters in all of this, is the connections we have with each other and how we treat one another.

This has been a really difficult time. When people share their stories it makes me feel awful. It’s hard to see how this will end and what else will come to light. But what I’m going to try to do, as best I can, is to listen and be supportive as people reach out and approach each day with love and kindness.

This story continues to unwind in a disturbing way. Many of Luginbill's friends I have spoken to seem to be moving from feelings of shock and concern for Joe to a sense that they have all been betrayed, and of profound disappointment. 

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Steve Hanson

Steve is a web designer and recently retired from running the hosting and development company Cruiskeen Consulting LLC. Cruiskeen Consulting LLC is the parent company of Wis.Community, and publication of this site continues after his retirement.

Steve is a member of LION Publishers and the Local Media Association, is active in Health Dunn Right, and is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of the greater Chippewa Valley

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