By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent
Assistant City Manager and Director of Public Works Shohreh Dupuis received a 10 percent pay raise, adding $25,000 to her annual salary, after disclosing that she’s being recruited to be a city manager in other communities.
The City Council’s vote came after 11 p.m. on Tuesday after most of the audience went home following council members’ approval of the Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Report and related funding.
The raise bumps Dupuis’ pay from $216,428 to $238,060. This would put her in the salary range of assistant city managers of much larger cities such as Newport Beach, with a population of more than 86,000, and Irvine, with a population of more than 270,000, according to the staff report. Seal Beach Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos earns $201,427 to manage a city with a population that’s a similar size to Laguna Beach, according to city documents.
“We’re heading into an incredibly tough season with the city and we cannot afford to lose someone with Shohreh’s experience,” Councilwoman Toni Iseman said.
Councilman Steve Dicterow asked Dupuis why she wants to continue working for Laguna Beach if she has better-paying offers from other cities.
“The main reason I’d like to stay here is because I love this city,” she said. “I have some very personal ties to this city. I’ve worked for very large organizations before I came here, and I like working for a small organization and getting to know the community.”
City Manager John Pietig said it was critical for the city to retain Dupuis, partly because of the upcoming retirements of Dale Shuck, deputy director for parks and maintenance services, and Paula Faust, deputy director for parking and transit services. Both have promised to stay longer than originally planned to help with the transition.
Pietig also cautioned that losing Dupuis along with two senior public works managers could delay the implementation of wildfire mitigation measures, restricting neighborhood transit, and the completion of utility assessment districts including the city’s largest in Woods Cove.
Before joining Laguna Beach in April 2016, Dupuis was Irvine’s deputy public works director. She has served Orange County municipal and regional agencies for more than 28 years. Before being hired by Irvine in 2008, Dupuis was Anaheim’s transit manager and the Orange County Transportation Authority’s manager of commuter rail and local programs for Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax that funds freeway and road improvements.
The approved pay raise for Dupuis upset local budget watchdogs Jennifer Zeiter and Michele Monda. Both stormed out of the room as it became clear the council was going to support the salary increase.
“From my experience, no one is irreplaceable,” Monda said. “This excuse of losing two managers is bogus. The city manager will still be here, as will the other assistant city manager. Are we going to keep doing this? Are we going to keep paying her off?”
Laguna Beach resident Michael Morris also argued that statistics show that employees willing to listen to other opportunities typically leave within two years anyway.
“I’ve been listening to folks and there is already a bad taste in existing employees’ mouths about this potential one-off retention raise,” Morris said. “I think while you might forestall the departure of Ms. Dupuis through increasing her salary in this way, you might hasten the departure of second-tier managers.”