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Joe Luginbill goes MIA, leaves Eau Claire organizations in the dark wondering what’s next

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - The heat is turned off at the State Theatre and work on the Smile House has halted as people point to lack of payments from the Luginbill Children's Foundation run by Joe Luginbill.

Now, News 18 is hearing from those impacted as they search for answers.

It appears any sign of the foundation's creator was wiped away online over the weekend.

The Luginbill Foundation website and phone no longer work and any sign of the foundation on social media has been taken down.

News 18 made numerous attempts to contact Luginbill on Monday. Our reporter even went to the home listed as the address for the Luginbill Foundation on the IRS website but nobody answered the door.

At the State Theatre, where Luginbill served as the CEO, power, heat and water have all been shut off.

Documents obtained by News 18 (see picture above) show Xcel Energy was owed nearly $21,000 when the lights were shut off.

That forced the LGBTQ+ Community Center to move out of the State Theatre and sever ties with the organization.

"There was a lot we were really hoping to do here," said Daniel Bennett-Hardy, vice president of the organization. "There was such a great space and great opportunity and there was so much potential. It's just hard to know that we don't have that opportunity anymore."

The lack of communication and funding has also halted work at the Smile House, one of the Luginbill Foundation's latest endeavors which was meant to serve as a transitional living program for adults 18 to 24 who were previously in foster care.

The Smile House project lead Sarah Strunk told News 18 she hasn't heard from Luginbill in a week and never received money for the project.

"People's livelihood is on the line," Strunk said. "The way people make money and make income, the safe space for these LGBTQ youth to come and have stability is gone. The safe space for these kids aging out of foster care to go and have that promise is gone."

Azara Properties, which owns the State Theatre, released a statement saying the Luginbill Foundation was responsible for paying utilities and rent. Officials said they have tried to contact Luginbill about the defaulted payments but have been unsuccessful. They are now working with those impacted to resolve the issues.

Chippewa Valley Youth Chorus claims the Luginbill Foundation also failed to file needed insurance paperwork to allow them to rehearse at Flynn Elementary. They have since made other arrangements.

We have also learned Eau Claire County Board member Zoe Roberts has cut ties with Luginbill who had been serving as the treasurer on her campaign.

IRS data shows the Luginbill Foundation was named a tax-exempt non-profit in 2018 but the most recent report shows it has failed to file a 990 form which is required to show how a non-profit is spending its money.

Back in late October, Luginbill surprised many by announcing he was giving up his seat on the Eau Claire School Board.