Santa Monica to pay $122.5 million to settle child sex abuse claims against former city employee

Thursday, April 27, 2023
Santa Monica approves $122.5M settlement in child sex abuse case
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.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- 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.

"This was a sad chapter in the city's history," Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis said at the meeting. "Our hearts do go out to each and every one of the victims and we hope and pray this will never happen again."

The plaintiffs say Uller sexually abused them as children when he volunteered with the Police Activities League.

Uller was arrested in 2018 for allegedly molesting boys as early as the 1980s. He was found dead months later of an apparent suicide.

One man, who did not want to be identified, told Eyewitness News he began being abused by Uller when he was 12 years old. It stopped when he was 14, but he says he's still haunted by it.

"I go days without sleeping due to these nightmares. I wake up sweating," he said. "All my loved ones wondered why I was so angry. I couldn't tell them though. I couldn't say nothing."

He admits he has at times lost his will to live, but he's still alive and wants to make a difference. The settlement, he says, is a start.

"I really don't know the dollar amount that would make my life better," he said. "I made a lot of sad choices in life due to this."

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.

The alleged child abuse happened before anyone in the current city leadership was in office. The city says it has since updated how they screen volunteers, plus has added a citywide code of conduct and a child protection committee.

The city will have to borrow money against other city funds to pay for the settlement, but officials don't expect it will impact services or the upcoming budget.

City News Service contributed to this report.