The George Weiss Waste Award
Councilmember George Weiss just cost Laguna Beach $500,000, and Village Laguna is celebrating.
Why? I posit that Village Laguna disliked our city manager, Shohreh Dupuis, because they opposed her policies and wanted her to quit or be fired, and councilmember Weiss was their hitman. To get there, he (they) created such a “hostile working environment” for Dupuis that it became intolerable, and she quit, but not before the city handed her that $500,000 not to sue.
The after-the-fact, lame, and shameful excuse now proffered by some “insiders” is that Ms. Dupuis wasn’t up to the job; she didn’t get things done. That is nonsense. She accomplished more than the last three city managers combined.
Her accomplishments: Ms. Dupuis opened Hotel Laguna; talked the OCTA into giving the former bus terminal on Broadway to the city for parking; created the downtown Promenade (and built it) in two weeks; created outdoor dining and built parklets for it; bought the St. Catherine’s school site; purchased the downtown library from the County; turned the old Laguna Drug facility into a city-wide COVID vaccination facility; initiated 10-min parking spots for drug pickup by Bushard’s Pharmacy customers; talked the County into giving Laguna $22 million to take over the South Laguna beaches (for years, the County offered nothing); fast-tracked the approval process for Rivian to re-build and re-open the downtown theater (at its own expense); negotiated and purchased a site for a South Laguna fire station; and so on.
The opponent: Village Laguna (VL) opposed most everything Shohreh accomplished. Until their acolytes were voted out of majority control of the city council, it seemed like they practically ran the joint as their own private fiefdom. Example: The city hired former VL chair Ann Christoph to create landscaping guidelines – a great gig – and spent five years on it.
I felt like Weiss insulted Shohreh, harassed her, accused her of dastardly deeds and shouted over and down others. He was helped along by three friends and by VL- and they poisoned the well so thoroughly feces, or what appeared to be, was smeared on the front entryway of Ms. Dupuis’ home. To add insult, VL acolytes downplayed it in a series of letters to the editor, with Ann Christoph even writing a column, turning it into a joke.
Who could have stopped it: Mayor Bob Whalen and Sue Kempf (when she was mayor) could have stopped it but did not. They could have forced public comments about city staffers to be at the end of the meetings, demanded such comments be made in writing or, demanded that the many speakers appoint one spokesperson, or forced speakers to finish within their allotted three minutes, or interrupted the rants. But they did not. They did nothing.
The rookies: Newly elected councilmembers Mark Orgill and Alex Rougnaghi could have stepped in but did not. Given their rookie status, I understand their thinking: learn first, talk later. But do nothing to stop open bullies? Really? That is the best they could do?
So, I guess Weiss and Village Laguna should celebrate. But before they do, shouldn’t they consider repaying the city that $500,000? After all, they caused it to be spent.
Michael co-founded Orange County School of the Arts, The Discovery Cube, Sage Hill School, Art Spaces Irvine and several other area nonprofit organizations. He is a business partner with Sanderson-J. Ray Development and has lived in Laguna Beach since the early 1980s.View Our User Comment Policy