Lakeside Legacy Foundation Executive Director Siobhan Cottone has resigned, the foundation board announced.
Cottone has been with the nonprofit since 2012 but submitted her resignation last week. She left to pursue other opportunities, board president Patti Lutz said. A group of artists and people close to the organization said they have had problems with Cottone during her tenure.
A handful of resident artists presented their concerns about Cottone to the board at its last meeting, just after her resignation. Several former employees also have spoken out about the “toxic” work environment they endured under Cottone’s leadership.
Lutz said that Cottone wasn’t asked to leave.
“You know how rumors fly around,” she said. “She had done an excellent job.”
“We have had people that came to board with issues that concern a lot of different things,” Lutz said when asked if she was aware of the alleged problems people had with Cottone.
“When we have issues, our position is to unite as a board and listen to what people have to say,” she said. “You try not to air dirty laundry.”
Former building manager Pete Byker worked with the foundation from late 2017 to late 2018 and ultimately left because of the constant negativity, he said.
“I stayed away from a lot of her wrath, but from Day 1 I heard complaints from the artists,” said Pete Byker, the foundation’s former building manager. “It’s unbelievable the way she treated people.”
Cottone frequently talked down to or yelled at the artists and staffers, and liked to play “mind games” that had people leaving “in tears,” Byker said.
Former office manager Jill Hermes said she left because of the work environment, despite her love for her colleagues, the resident artists and foundation itself.
Hermes began with the foundation as office manager in October of 2018 and started noticing conflicts with the executive director by January, she said.
“We had a difference of opinion on management styles,” she said. “Our styles clashed and there was no way of getting around it, so I felt that rather than creating more tension it would be best if I resigned.”
The board has begun its search for a new executive director. Lakeside Legacy Foundation operates the Dole Mansion and Lakeside Arts Park. Its regular events include the annual Lakeside Festival, Christmas at the Dole and first Fridays art shows.
Cottone couldn’t be reached for comment. Officials with the foundation wouldn’t provide her contact information to the Northwest Herald. A message sent via social media wasn’t answered.