Opinion: An Apology to Shohreh

Billy Fried

Imagine you’re a young girl growing up in a country that suddenly undergoes an extremist revolution. Your family’s business is confiscated, your bank accounts closed, and as a woman, you are stripped of your freedoms. So, your family emigrates 7,600 miles to California to start over from scratch, and you are taught that with hard work, you could make a better life for yourself. 

Your older brother Sunny recognizes your gift for math and counsels a career in engineering. So you graduate from UC Irvine with a degree in applied mathematics. You score your first job as a transportation planner for the County of Orange and spend the next five years on the rise. Then the Orange County Transportation Authority comes a knockin’, and you spend the next 10 years managing large transportation and commuter rail projects. Along the way, you marry your soulmate and have a baby girl. Life is sweet, but Sunny never gets to see his younger sister thrive. He dies tragically in a car accident three years after moving here. 

Then tragedy strikes again just after you land a new job with the City of Anaheim as their Transportation Manager. First, your father dies, then your beloved husband – and father of your then 12-year-old daughter Sunnyjoy (named after your brother) – slips into a coma after suffering cardiac arrest. Your choices are limited: leave him hooked up and in a vegetative state indefinitely, or take him somewhere serene to live out his days in hospice with family by his side. So you rent a home in Laguna Beach to care for him, a place near and dear to him and your family’s heart. Soon after, your mom passes too. 

You take a year off to recover, but you have a daughter to raise. So you score a job with the City of Irvine, where you work for seven years and win numerous awards as the deputy public works director, managing more than 100 employees. Along the way, your daughter graduates from Cal Poly, which leads to a doctorate she’s now completing in microbiology from UC Berkeley. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And you find a new soulmate and get married. Your life is coming together again.  

Then, over the 2015 Christmas holidays, you learn of a job opening in Laguna Beach for public works director and assistant city manager – your forever dream job in your dream community. You leap for joy and announce to your husband and daughter that you will all be moving to Laguna soon. 

Which, of course, you manifest because who in their right mind wouldn’t hire someone with that deep a resume of relevant experience? You excel over the next five years, overseeing public works, community services, cultural arts and the public communications team; hiring senior staff; developing legislative platforms, working with government affairs, and navigating the shoals of the COVID pandemic, including implementing the first-ever dining and retail promenade to ensure businesses can continue operating. 

You’re so good at your job, and it’s a slam dunk that on the retirement of your boss, you’ll succeed him. Which happens in 2021. Wow, what a trajectory, from an Iranian immigrant to the first female CEO of Laguna Beach, California! We are, of course, talking about Shohreh Dupuis. 

But now imagine, just at the pinnacle of your success, when life seems so good, a small group of residents come after you with a torrent of mendacious accusations about corruption and incompetence. They paint you as pro-business and anti-resident as if a city manager could in any way act political when, in fact, you serve at the will of three council votes. They accuse you of colluding with a fellow Persian developer, of working too closely with a councilman they don’t like and, most egregiously, of helping defeat their ballot initiative Measure Q, which would put development approvals on projects large and small in the hands of residents, essentially derailing projects before they began. 

The ringleader was the perpetually outraged and out-voted councilman George Weiss, grandstanding for his constituency of anti-development fabulists by finding a scapegoat to bully and harass. City staff witnessed episodes of him unhinged in Shohreh’s office, screaming and banging his fists on her desk in a somewhat terrifying fit of rage. 

We all know about the despicable campaign of harassment that followed: her home was vandalized, George and his acolytes produced a mountain of debunked conspiracy theories of her trying to get out of a traffic ticket, and they shamed her in every public forum they could. Yet they could never come up with a single material breach of her responsibilities because there simply weren’t any. In fact, these privileged, armchair cowboys and girls don’t even know what she does and how hard she works to preside over a staff of 300. We have wonderful department heads who Shohreh hired and empowered to do their best work. She overhauled and modernized systems and equipment, and the city has never run better. 

What these antagonists also didn’t know was that these groundless public attacks and smears were sending her into panic attacks so severe that, in one staff meeting, she had to be transported to the hospital. And since Shohreh is a human being – with real feelings – she finally said, “Who needs this?” And resigned. What a sorry, heartless end to a brilliant success story.  

We are the real victims as we will lose far more than a talented administrator who agreed to a paltry settlement because she couldn’t get out soon enough. We lose opportunity costs, with months and maybe years sacrificed while we select and groom a new city manager to pick up where Shohreh left off. We also shrink the talent pool because what qualified applicant wants to be vulnerable to public attacks and shaming? 

Thank you, Shohreh, for the incredibly hard work you put into making our fair city better. I applaud you for having the courage to walk away from this toxic soup of a town. Everyone who knows you knows you were married to the job. Especially your husband. Now he gets you back, and may you finally find some peace. I apologize for the cruelty of our community. I’m embarrassed and ashamed that, instead of celebrating an amazing immigrant success story, we chose to tear you down. You are truly an embodiment of the American dream.  

Maybe after some time off you will be motivated to apply your considerable talents to another city. Their community would be lucky to have you. Just as we were. 

Billy is the CEO of La Vida Laguna, an outdoor adventure company, and the host of “Laguna Talks” on KXFM radio – Thursdays at 8 p.m. Email: [email protected].

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  1. I owe Shohreh a thank you for two problems in my life I know she fixed.

    The first problem she fixed were the odors emanating from the Bluebird Canyon sewer pump station. I wrote a column years ago where I quoted my grandson as saying,” it smells so bad you can taste it.” That bad smell is gone now. I didn’t think fixing it was possible. Shohreh proved me wrong.

    The second problem she fixed was on a hairpin curve on my street where delivery trucks would become stuck trying to back out of my narrow and dead end street. We called it the $1,000 corner because with a ticket for blocking traffic and a the big tow truck to extricate them that was what it cost those unfortunate to become stuck.

    I didn’t think fixing that problem was possible either. Again I was proved wrong. A quick repaving job corrected the problem and we’ve had no more stuck trucks.

    These are just the day to day problems that got fixed that I know of. No doubt there are may others. That’s the city managers job. She did it well.

    Thank you Shohreh forl your efforts to make Laguna Beach a livable town. I’m sad to see you go under the present circumstances. I hope you find success and happiness in your future endeavors.

    JJ Gasparotti

  2. JJ:
    She didn’t “fix” that Bluebird pump station odor issue. There’ve been multiple attempts, all to no avail.
    There’s still odors at this low spot in our system…..H2S and methane sit down in the early am because flow slows down in the early am hours, when the system isn’t “charged,” meaning little or no usage from around midnight until 5-6 am.
    This station has failed repeatedly over the years, resulting in massive sewage spills that reached the beach, massive fines by the Regional Board.
    And all anyone has to do is come down to South Coast Highway near Ruby’s.
    Roll your windows down or walk the apron/sidewalk.
    Stench at times makes your eyes water, and yes, you can taste it.
    That’s because the rehabbed Victoria Beach system, including the pump station near Dizz’s, we’re done on the cheap…..so from Nyes Place down to the Montage has been a sore spot with those of us promised solutions.
    My neighbors and I have complained constantly for the 17 years I’ve lived in lower Vic.
    Maybe if a council person lived at the south end of town we’d get a response, right?

  3. Billy you’ve found your true calling as a fiction writer!! Since you are allergic to facts and reality you are a natural. This whole tragedy, complete with a lamenting Greek chorus of which you are a part, could have been avoided. Kempf/Whalen/Blake forced an inexperienced, unqualified developer friendly bureaucrat on Laguna to advance their agenda. It was only a matter of time before it blew up thanks to her continual blunders and missteps – see other people’s comments for the facts on this. Ti Amo, Presbyterian Church, library, eviscerating the Police Dept., low staff morale – just a few that come to mind. It is indeed admirable that an immigrant makes a new life in America. We all have deaths and set backs in our lives. But the successful ones do not behave the way Dupuis did. I wish her well in her next chapter and am grateful she will no longer be able to further destroy Laguna Beach.

  4. Michele, Well said..Does Billy live in town? I literally had to laugh out loud at the outrageous comments made by him, what possible planet does he live on, obviously not on earth and GPS’d to Laguna Beach, probably never tunes into a CC meeting to find her non-responsive to residents and tapping on her phone texts probably to PB through out it all, she could be no more human related to residents then a fly in butter..her blunders and non response to human issues were non- existent! Her story is no different than so many, death, pain, advancement in work..the bottom line…we have all been there yet treat others with heart, in leaving the city in Chaos she couldn’t help but blame an innocent person for all of it..

  5. Wow! Billy it appears Your application to be conductor of the “CRAZY BUS” has been accepted! Congratulations!

    I just cannot accept Your latest diatribe without becoming nauseated.

    Time to get on that bus and head “out” of this “toxic soup of a town” (Your words). Please go to Lego Vista, (formerly Dana Point) or to Monolith Beach (formerly Huntington Beach) I am sure these two formerly charming beach towns would be happy to have You.

    Good Luck!

  6. Oh Billy, please. She had to leave, or her best friends Sue and Bob would have figured out how to keep her. She must have done something wrong for them to vote her out. I assuming here but I’m sure we’ll find out and I’m going to bet that Sue and Bob will have to answer for this too.

  7. The Indy should be ashamed of itself for permitting such blatant lying.

    This may be an op-ed piece, but such purposefully malicious untrue garbage regarding Ms. Dupuis’ “retirement” and Mr. Weiss should not be permitted – it’s an unsubstantiated smear job that blights the integrity of the publication and the publishers.

    Would love to see Fried try to back up even a quarter of his fabricated accusations.

    Just because he says something doesn’t make it true – especially when he has a self-serving, biased business stake in the game and an obvious ax to grind.

    If Fried wants to talk about shame, he ought to learn how to use a mirror. But apparently he doesn’t know what shame is.

    PS. If you want to hear a different side of the story regarding Ms. Dupuis’ performance – which is what impacted her “retirement” and has nothing to do with her personal history – see:


  8. Great retort Cindy, (all three lines)
    Why don’t we give everyone a little background and let the readers know who You are, just for those who are not aware, and what is Your “Skin in the Game”.
    A political action committee largely funded by Laguna Beach Real Estate Investors has officially changed its name ahead of the 2022 City Council Election, claiming it has “achieved” its goals.

    In a June 7 report filed with the City Clerk, Laguna Forward PAC listed committee officers as three Laguna Beach Residents: Michael Ray, a partner at Sanderson – J Ray Development; Samuel Goldstein, agent at Radford Ventures LLC and Cindy Shopoff, a principal at Shopoff Realty Investments. The trio were also officers of Liberate Laguna PAC.

    For those of You who do not remember, this is the PAC that distributed the Political “HIT PIECES” on Ruben Flores. This is also the PAC that donated $ 20,000.00 to the political campaign of Peter Blake.

    It is time for the Residents of Laguna Beach draw some conclusions here. The occasion has come to ultimately understand the Who, the Why, and the What-Were the motivations and reasons that have brought this City to where it is at this moment.

    One of the common denominators from the vocal group of residents who (I being one) believe that City Manager Shohreh Dupuis produced too many errors in too short of time to be retained as the City Manager. The former CC majority of Blake, Whalen, & Kemph were pro-development, pro-tourism, and, in being the former, therefore anti-resident. This “majority” of CC Persons hastened the demise of the CM in their pursuit of what many believed to be poor decisions. (no need to list them again) It is hard not to see the logicality of that debate when You consider the startling catalog of CM Dupuis missteps during her mini-tenure as our CM.

    The Council was able to pass (then abandon) multiple horrible decisions. Why did they constantly have to do that? The reason is absolutely simple the (The Haters, The ILk, The Armchair Cowboys * “all words used by the “non-haters”) RESIDENTS opposed the Developer backed CC “majority” and called them out. The former CC with the full support of the CM, welcomed more Tourists, welcomed more Parking Structures, welcomed more Day-trippers parking in residential neighborhoods, ETC., ETC, ETC.

    Residents should be dismayed, but not astounded that the current City Council then gave the reason for the demise/departure of former City Manager Shohreh Dupuis as somehow attributable to City Council Member George Weiss. This is uncompelling and absurd. The facts are there for anyone to see.

    The only reason that many of the Former CC decisions never made it to fruition is BECAUSE of George Weiss and Us the RESIDENTS. (Think parking structure on 3RD St. “boondoggle”).

    Our Current Mayor and one CC Person are hanging on to their Gavel as tightly as they can, tossing the Mayoral Appointment back and forth. It is time to bring the curtain down on that exercise now. Please take the time as Residents of Laguna Beach and see again, the Who, the What and the Why. The decision to remove City Manager Dupuis had to be made. The reason(s) are/were self-evident, and certainly not because of the convenient pitiful justification given by Mayor Whalen.

    We the Residents have the power to take our City back. Let’s do that in the next election cycle.

  9. Cindy – so typical to use the race or gender card when you don’t have any facts to support what you want to believe. And so typical coming from a Liberate Laguna founder – your group who supported Peter Blake and Shohreh’s pro developer/residents be damned policies.

    Interesting that you comment the day before a damning article on your business practices comes out in Voice of Orange County. Seems that you are tied to the corrupt and now disgraced Mayor of Anaheim. This is from the Voice of Orange County headline
    “Independent investigators found developer Shopoff Realty had a tight relationship with former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu, which included him steering contracts their way, and it’s now opening up questions about their other projects in Orange County. ” Here’s the link to the article for those who would like to read more about your business practices.


    So does this make Voice of Orange County one of your so called Haters?? And it also explains why you are sad that Shohreh has left.


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