SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Santa Monica will pay $122.5 million to 124 people who alleged they suffered sexual abuse as children at the hands of a former city employee who volunteered with the Police Activities League, attorneys said Wednesday.
The settlement, approved Tuesday night by the Santa Monica Council, brings to nearly $230 million the total amount paid by the city to resolve legal claims brought against the city over the alleged actions of Eric Uller, who killed himself in 2018 after being charged with various molestation counts.
Uller, 50, worked with the city as a systems analyst when he was arrested in 2018 on allegations that he had been molesting boys as far back as the late 1980s. Attorneys representing alleged victims said he volunteered with the city’s Police Activities League, claiming to be a police officer and even showing children a badge and gun to gain their trust.
“My heart goes out to the victims who have experienced so much pain and heartbreak,” Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis said in a statement released after the council’s vote. “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.”
Attorney Brian Claypool, who represented many of the plaintiffs suing the city, held a news conference in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday to announce the settlement. Claypool alleged that Uller groomed young children through the PAL program, often giving them food, money or gifts, and sometimes taking them to sporting events. He alleged in lawsuits that city officials were made aware of Uller’s behavior as early as the 1990s, but nothing was done.
“How can so many young kids in the city of Santa Monica have gone through this horrible abuse?” Claypool asked. “… Putting aside the money that’s been paid … we need to know that the city of Santa Monica will never let this happen again.”
Uller was placed on leave immediately following his arrest in 2018. He was found dead in his apartment later that year, shortly after being charged with felony counts including lewd acts on a child and continuous sexual abuse.
City officials said that following the allegations against Uller, numerous steps were taken in an effort to avoid a repeat of such crimes. According to the city, it expanded its requirements for Child Abuse Mandated Reporter Training for all employees, volunteers and contractors, and established a Child Protection Officer position to oversee implementation of child abuse prevention measures.
“The city has remained vigilant by implementing best practices and strict policies to ensure that these unconscionable acts do not occur again,” City Manager David White said in a statement following the council’s Tuesday night vote on the settlement.