Letter: Let’s hope next city manager is more effective


There has been a lot of noise about the departure of former Laguna Beach City Manager Shoreh Dupuis (such as Fried’s screed a couple of weeks ago). Most of it expresses sympathy for Dupuis or hostility to council members. I suggest taking a breath. Here is the core reality: in every city, a city manager serves “at the pleasure” of the majority of city councilmembers. An effective city manager attempts to implement the agenda of the council majority while meeting the essential goal of efficiently running the city staff. Ideally, the city manager also has generally positive interactions with citizens. Many city managers are terminated or leave when they no longer have the support of the council majority, for any reason, even “without cause.”

And here is a slightly more contested reality: Although a hard worker, Dupuis’ brief 2-year regime as city manager was characterized by serious problems. A few examples: promoting the unwise purchase of Ti Amo for a fire station; bungling the Hotel Laguna remodel and ownership control disputes; uncommunicative and even hostile responses to citizen information requests; unwillingness to manage staff to ensure adequate lead time in publishing staff reports before council meetings; low morale among many staff; less transparency and more frequent closed session decisions and actions than previous administrations; and many more. There’s no question Dupuis’ management style and actions generated considerable frustration and criticism from many people who were involved with or paying attention to our community’s governance, certainly not just from George Weiss. 

In a generous severance agreement, Dupuis was given not only the required multi-month salary compensation and multiple benefits that she is entitled to at retirement or resignation or termination by council, but also a continuing great deal on her housing costs, plus an additional $223,000 if she agrees to drop the filing (she made?) which claims, according to the press release, that she experienced a “hostile workplace” and a “period of conflict with a city councilmember.”   

Serving as Laguna’s city manager is not an easy job. But in many years on the job, and despite splits on the council and controversies in the community, Ken Frank and John Pietig managed staff, worked with council, and dealt with the public far more effectively than Dupuis has during only two years. In every city, city managers face occasional work environment tensions, staff issues, citizen complaints and even open disagreements with councilmembers. Their highly compensated job requires that city managers consistently exercise the skills to manage that work environment well and to deal with councilmembers, staff and citizens in a collegial and responsive manner. If they do not, city managers are replaced.   

Because so much in our city happens in “closed sessions,” we will probably never fully know what was happening in this case. Perhaps the council blinked at the threat of a legal proceeding and/or the council did what the majority has the right to do – make a cost-benefit analysis to terminate a flawed city manager. Let’s hope our next city manager is more effective than Dupuis. 

Jim Danziger, emeritus professor of political science 

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  1. Thank you Jim. Agree with you: “There’s no question Dupuis’ management style and actions generated considerable frustration and criticism from many people who were involved with or paying attention to our community’s governance, certainly not just from George Weiss.”

    I found that Councilman George Weiss is the one official who listened to the ongoing questions and concerns about the CM and attempted to get answers. Sadly, for doing his due-diligence on behalf of LB constituents, he was targeted. Happily residents aren’t easily fooled.

  2. I agree with Mr Danzinger when he writes, “…we will probably never fully know what was happening in this case.” That doesn’t prevent him from telling us. It’s one man’s opinion, of course, as is Ms Jurca’s, as in mine that Shohreh Dupuis was driven out by a concerted, relentless, nasty campaign that started the day she was hired.

  3. Mr. Quilter neglects to mention Ms. Dupuis should never have been appointed in the first place, due to her lack of experience, credentials, tact and temperament.

    Sue Kempf, Bob Whalen and Peter Blake – a controlling voting block – insisted on hiring her for complicity not competency. And look where that got us. Her failure was their failure.

    Her costly mismanagement and chaotic tenure made her demise inevitable. On those counts, she didn’t need any help – her inability to do the job was her undoing.

    Criticism comes with the office. And it comes on strong and repeatedly when the performance is poor. And therein is the story.

  4. Seriously Mr. Quilter? You still sticking with that ridiculous CM victim story? My guess is that this retired CM is laughing all the way to the bank! Sad that you simply cannot accept the fact that Ms. Dupuis was never a highly-regarded ACM and that she didn’t have the knowledge, experience, judgment or personality necessary to become our City Manager.

    She was simply the choice of the 2021 Council majority of Whalen, Kempf and Blake who knew they could control her and they refused to listen to constituents during the recruitment. This is the result – the failure of this individual and a City in disruption.

    This should never have happened and it should never be repeated.

    Whalen and Kempf need to step aside. Enough damage has been done to our City under their self-interest agendas and their arrogance in passing the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem power positions between them year after year and shutting other capable elected’s out – like George Weiss. Such embarrassing behavior by City leaders. Please stop it.

  5. My understanding the vote was unanimous 5-0 for hiring Shoreh Dupuis back in April 2021! She was initially hired as manager & public works director April 2016. In July 2019 she received a 10 per cent pay raise ,after disclosing that she’s being recruited to be a city manager in other communities. Councilwoman Toni Iseman stated “ We’re heading into an incredibly tough season with the city and we cannot afford to lose someone with Shoreh’s
    So in seems to me she was hired unanimously 5-0 April 2016!
    A raise July 2019 unanimously 5-0 !
    Hired as City Manager April 2021 unanimously 5-0!
    I believe these are “FACTS” ! Many past & present Council members voted for her.
    My opinion is that she did a great job in a very difficult time !


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