Dayton’s Bluff Community Council executive director resigns

Resignation follows tumultuous board meeting and financial woes.

Following a heated board meeting and community unrest, the now-former executive director of the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, Deanna Abbott-Foster, turned in a resignation letter to the community council’s board of directors on Dec. 22.

Abbott-Foster had been placed on unpaid leave from the community council and then laid off late last year. She returned to work for the council in a volunteer capacity, but during the board’s Dec. 18 meeting, more than 150 community members showed up to protest her continued involvement with the organization as it deals with financial shortfalls. 

The nonprofit council advises the St. Paul City Council on matters involving the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood, such as zoning, new businesses, and other neighborhood issues. The St. Paul City Council is not bound by the community council’s recommendations.

Many of the problems surrounding the former executive director came to light in November, when now-former staff members addressed the board about concerns they had with Abbott-Foster regarding both the community council’s finances and the workplace environment.

To address those concerns, the board put Abbott-Foster on leave for two weeks starting Nov. 20, while a human resources investigation was conducted to evaluate the office environment.

Abbott-Foster said she believes many of the problems came from a misunderstanding of her management style. The lack of funds, Abbott-Foster and the board said, came from the normal “ebb and flow” of incoming cash for a nonprofit, saying the organization received fewer grants in 2017 than in years past.

All paid community council staff, including Abbott-Foster, was laid off by the board at the beginning of December due to the lack of funds. However, Abbott-Foster, returned to the office the day after the layoffs, in an unpaid capacity, to help the organization transition to a new executive director.  

Abbott-Foster said in earlier interviews that before these issues came to light that she had made plans to retire in 2018.  She was executive director of the organization for six and a half years.

In a Dec. 23 email announcing Abbott-Foster’s resignation, board president Jeanelle Foster said, “We will be holding community round begin the process of building community consensus of the district council’s future and as a means of healing recent riffs within the community.”

Round table discussions will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the East Side Enterprise Center, 804 Margaret St., on  Jan. 12 and 26, and Feb. 9 and 23. They are open to everyone in the Dayton’s Bluff community.

The board is also working on creating a hiring committee as the organization searches for a new executive director. Foster said anyone from the community is welcome to join the committee and can contact the organization at 651-772-2075, or contact Foster directly at 651-307-3177. 

In addition, the community council is searching for someone to conduct a financial audit and is trying to find someone who has no connection to the board or organization. Foster said in an interview it has been difficult to find someone with nonprofit financial experience who has no connection to anyone involved with the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, since many of the people involved with the organization are all “well connected.”

Foster added that the organization is reaching out to neighboring district councils in similar situations, such as the Payne-Phalen Community Council, which is also in the process of searching for a new executive director, for advice and ideas on how to move forward.

While Abbott-Foster said she would offer help to the organization during this time of change, Foster said at this point it is unknown if the board will seek her help, because the “community has made it clear” that it does not want Abbott-Foster involved with the council in any capacity.


Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto.

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