City Response to Allegations Related to Former Employee Eric Uller
The City of Santa Monica places the highest value on the health, safety, and wellbeing of our youth. We were deeply disturbed by the heartbreaking allegations that Eric Uller, a former City employee, committed crimes against children in connection with the City’s Police Activities League (PAL) program in the 1980s and 1990s. Since receiving these allegations, the City has taken, and will continue to take, steps to share information with the community and ensure the safety of all our youth across all City programs. Here, we share background on the allegations, the City’s response, youth programs, and legal claims.
Background on the Arrest of and Charges Against Eric Uller
In late spring 2018, the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) received an anonymous tip about an alleged crime involving Eric Uller. Following identification of the victim, SMPD reported the information to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) for investigation.
As a result of its investigation, LASD arrested Uller on October 18, 2018, on charges of Lewd Acts with a Minor. On October 22, 2018, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office charged Uller with five counts of sexual crimes against four minors. The charges included 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. The charges related to alleged incidents dating back to the 1980s and 1990s while Uller was volunteering with the City’s Police Activities League (PAL) program.
On November 15, 2018, the City was notified that Uller was found dead in his apartment in an apparent suicide. As a result of Uller’s death, proceedings on the criminal charges against him were halted.
Although the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department closed this first investigation upon Eric Uller’s death, the Santa Monica Police Department received an additional allegation that individuals at the time were on notice of Uller’s activities and failed to meet their obligations as mandatory reporters under the Child Abuse Neglect and Reporting Act. The Santa Monica Police Department again referred that matter to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and that investigation remains outstanding.
The City cooperated fully with the Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office throughout the criminal investigations and prosecution. The criminal matters were closed after Eric Uller’s death.
Following Uller’s arrest, the City worked swiftly and proactively to reach out to all of those potentially impacted by these horrifying allegations. The City:
- Held in-person community meetings with community members and PAL parents to provide information about the allegations and the City’s response and to hear and respond to community concerns.
- Notified SMMUSD’s Mental Health Coordinator to ensure that school-based mental health providers were attentive and responsive to reactions from students, parents, caregivers, or staff.
- Activated local mental health providers to ensure that therapeutic services were available onsite for PAL, Virginia Avenue Park, and other city youth program participants and their families.
- Provided trainings at local libraries for parents on how to identify risk factors for and seek to prevent child sexual abuse.
- Retained Irma Rodríguez Moisa and Gabriel Sandoval at
the law firm of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo to conduct an independent
investigation of allegations that the City previously knew, or should have
known, of criminal conduct by Eric Uller (this investigation remains
- Retained an outside consultant, Praesidium, Inc., a nationally recognized expert in preventing abuse, to review the policies and practices of all City youth programs to provide guidance on best practices for preventing future incidents of abuse.
City Youth Programs
The City requires all employees to be fingerprinted and have State and Federal background checks. PAL volunteers working directly with minors are also subject to an annual screening that includes a fingerprint check with the California Department of Justice. In accordance with State law, no employee or volunteer may hold a position in which they supervise minors if they have been convicted of child molestation, narcotics offenses, or violent crimes.
After Uller’s arrest, the City retained an outside consultant, Praesidium, Inc., to review the policies and practices of City youth programs and provide guidance on best practices for preventing any future incidents of abuse. Praesidium has more than two decades of experience working with organizations to mitigate risk of sexual abuse and regularly works with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the YMCA, and the University of California.
Praesidium reviewed the City’s policies and procedures relating to City youth programs, visited several of those programs, observed their operations, interviewed staff members and spoke with youth participants and their families, and inspected program facilities and locations. Based on their review, in October 2019, Praesidium’s CEO attended a City Council meeting where he provided an interim report or Praesidium’s recommendations.
Based on Praesidium’s their guidance, the City has expanded existing standards to include:
- Creation of a Child Protection Committee, and the position of Child Protection Officer, to oversee implementation of child abuse prevention measures across City programs.
- A new City-wide code of conduct for providing services to youth.
- Updated, standardized screening of volunteers, including a standard application form, reference checks, and a “Live Scan Fingerprint” criminal background check.
- Expanded requirements for Child Abuse Mandated Reporter Training or Child Abuse Identification, Neglect, and Reporting (as applicable) for all City employees, and volunteers and contractors for any City-managed youth program.
- Hiring of a new volunteer coordinator to monitor and oversee the recruitment and training of volunteers and contractors across City programs.
On March 10, 2020, the Santa Monica City Council adopted a Child Protection Resolution to affirm the City’s commitment to preventing abuse of any kind.
On March 22, 2021, the City established Administrative Instruction III-5-12 on Abuse Prevention (“A.I.”), which outlines the Child Protection Program, including the structures, roles, and responsibilities of the Child Protection Committee and the Child Protection Officer. The A.I. includes standards for City-Managed Youth Program; standards and forms for responding to suspected abuse, neglect, or inappropriate conduct; and information for parents to prevent and detect abuse. The City has been working with its youth programs to provide and post some of these standards and resources for parents. In addition, the City has established a website with child abuse prevention resources at the following link:
In accordance with the A.I., and under the direction of the Child Protection Officer, the City and Praesidium conducted a comprehensive initial review of all youth programs in the City and established a program inventory in 2022. Praesidium provided initial feedback and established specific next steps for each program.
Between November 2018 and the present, 201 individuals have filed lawsuits or claims against the City alleging sexual abuse while participating in PAL between approximately 1987 and 1999. AB 218, which was signed into law by the Governor on October 13, 2019, removed the otherwise applicable statute of limitations and revived certain claims relating to childhood sexual abuse and assault for a period of three years, beginning on January 1, 2020. The deadline to file previously time-barred claim is now December 31, 2022.
To date, the City has settled with 105 individuals for $107.325 million. Pursuant to the settlement agreements, the City paid the settlement funds into qualified settlement funds, and the funds were allocated to the individuals as determined by a retired Superior Court Judge, whom the individuals’ counsel retained as a third-party neutral to perform this allocation. The City is presently working towards resolving the remaining lawsuits and claims.
The City used liability self-insurance funds as well as general fund savings set aside from prior years to fund the settlements. Contributions from ACCEL, the consortium of cities to which the City belongs to cover excess liability, and additional excess insurers, have covered some but not all the costs of the settlements. The City has a lawsuit pending against its excess insurers in an effort to recover additional, paid settlement funds.
Updated December 22, 2022