SANTA MONICA—On Tuesday, April 25, the Santa Monica City Council approved settlements with 124 claimants in the amount of $122.5 million, resolving all lawsuits against the city from allegations of sexual abuse by former City employee Eric Uller.
“My heart goes out to the victims who have experienced so much pain and heartbreak,” said Mayor Gleam Davis. “The settlement is the City’s best effort to address the suffering of the victims in a responsible way, while also acknowledging that the harm done to the victims cannot be undone.”
The city reported in a press release that the claimants alleged that Uller sexually abused or attempted to sexually abuse them between the late 1980s and early 2000s when many were youth participating in the Police Activities League (“PAL”) program.
On November 15, 2018, Eric Uller was found dead inside his home from an apparent suicide. The former city employee was charged with three counts of lewd acts upon a child, two counts of oral copulation of a person under 18, and one count of continuous sexual abuse. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office revealed that Uller, 50, of Marina del Rey was expected back in court on November 15, 2018. The defendant is alleged to have abused the victims between the ages of 12 and 16 years old from December 1986 to September 1995, the prosecutor indicated.
Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer at the times issued the following statement on October 30, 2018:
“The recent arrest of a City employee has raised legitimate concern in our community, from this Council and from our City staff, so I want to provide a brief announcement on what we know and are able to share. Our hearts go out to anyone impacted by these deeply disturbing circumstances. And I want to acknowledge the bravery of any and all victims that come forward to report sexual misconduct.”
“Over the last several days, there have been allegations that the City may have been aware of criminal conduct by Mr. Uller and failed in the past to address it. We take this concern seriously. We are committed to transparency and accountability. The City Attorney’s Office has retained outside counsel to conduct a comprehensive investigation of these allegations. The City is also conducting a comprehensive review of the procedures in place to protect youth participants of the PAL program,” said Mayor Winterer.
The city of Santa Monica released the following statement in response to Uller’s death:
“The City was shocked to receive this news. Mr. Uller had been expected to appear in court this morning on the criminal charges previously filed against him. The court was also advised of his death. The City had initiated an independent investigation into allegations that the City previously knew or should have known of, but failed to address, Mr. Uller’s alleged criminal conduct. The City remains committed to seeing this investigation through. The City has retained Irma Rodríguez Moises and Gabriel Sandoval at the law firm of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo to conduct an independent investigation of these allegations. The independent investigation is already underway, and will also review whether the City had in place sufficient procedures to encourage reporting of such conduct and to ensure that reports are acted on. The City continues to encourage anyone who has information relevant to the independent investigation to reach out directly to the independent counsel at https://www.aalrr.com/contact-cerritos or 562-653-3200.
The City also remains committed to conducting a review of the policies and practices of the many youth programs funded and operated by the City, including PAL. The City is in the process of retaining an outside consultant, Praesidium, Inc., to review the policies and practices of its youth programs and provide guidance on best practices for preventing any future incidents of abuse. Information about Praesidium can be found at its website, https://website.praesidiuminc.com/wp/.”
After the first allegations of sexual abuse by Uller in 2018, the city of Santa Monica expanded requirements for Child Abuse Mandated Reporter Training for all employees, volunteers, and contractors for any City-managed youth program; and created a Child Protection Committee, and established a Child Protection Officer, to oversee implementation of child abuse prevention measures across City programs.
“The City has remained vigilant by implementing best practices and strict policies to ensure that these unconscionable acts do not occur again,” said City Manager David White.
Pursuant to the settlement agreement, Santa Monica will pay $122.5 million into a qualified settlement fund, which will be allocated among the plaintiffs with the assistance of a neutral retired judge retained by plaintiffs’ counsel.