City of Santa Monica Resolves Claims and Lawsuits Alleging Sexual Abuse in the 1980s and 1990s
March 10, 2020 8:51 PM
SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Tonight, the Santa Monica City Council approved six settlements that resolve all pending claims and lawsuits against the City of Santa Monica arising out of allegations of sexual abuse in the 1980s and 1990s by former City employee Eric Uller.
“We’re relieved to have reached a just resolution that acknowledges the pain of these community members and their families, while protecting the privacy they continue to deserve,” said Mayor Kevin McKeown.
The first settlement resolves all claims and lawsuits brought by 18 individuals who allege that Uller sexually abused or attempted to sexually abuse them between approximately 1989 and 1999 when they were youth participating in the Police Activities League (“PAL”) program, as well as all claims and a lawsuit by one additional individual who alleges harm during the same time period by Fernando Ortega, an individual who was not employed by the City but was associated with the PAL program at the time. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, the City will pay $38 million into a qualified settlement fund, and the funds will be allocated to the 19 individuals as determined by a retired Superior Court Judge, whom plaintiffs’ counsel retained as a third-party neutral to perform this allocation.
Five additional settlements resolve all claims and lawsuits brought by five other individuals who allege sexual abuse by Uller during the same time period. These settlement agreements are in the respective amounts of $1,050,000; $900,000; $900,000; $900,000; and $850,000.
Pursuant to the six settlement agreements, the City will pay a total of $42.6 million to resolve all of the pending claims and lawsuits brought by these 24 individuals.
“These are lifelong neighbors and dear friends. To these men, thank you for being brave and coming forward, not only for yourself but for standing up for others,” said Councilmember Ana Maria Jara. “Our community and this Council walks with you on this journey toward healing and justice. Please know that your community will continue to grow stronger and bind us together with the purpose of ensuring this never happens again.”
At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, the City Council also approved a Child Protection Resolution to articulate the City’s commitment to ensuring lasting, City-wide measures to detect red flag behaviors and prevent incidences of abuse of children in any City programs. In consultation with Praesidium, Inc., a nationally recognized expert in prevention of child sexual abuse, the City has put in place new measures that 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 for all employees, volunteers, and contractors for any City-managed youth program; and
- Hiring of a new volunteer coordinator to monitor and oversee the recruitment and training of volunteers across City programs.
The City Council also approved a contract pursuant to which Praesidium will continue to lend its expertise to the City by initially filling the role of Child Protection Officer. In this role, Praesidium will review the practices, procedures, facilities, and training of City-managed youth programs on an ongoing basis to ensure best practices for abuse prevention.
The City’s Human Services Division will continue to partner with the Rape Treatment Center at UCLA Santa Monica (RTC) to hold workshops for parents of middle school students and new curriculum for parents of elementary school age youth and younger called Roads to Respect: Keeping Kids Safe. The next sessions will be held on May 21 and July 18.
“The Council, City staff, the City Attorney and I are committed to do everything possible to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again,” said City Manager Rick Cole. “That message is unequivocal. We will continue to work with and listen to the community we serve. We will continue to support City staff who are making a positive difference in the lives of countless youth in our parks, libraries, and youth programs. We will train, we will monitor, we will evaluate, and we will be accountable. We will be vigilant, and we will not tolerate any behavior that compromises the health and safety of the youth of Santa Monica.”