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Consultant to Present Recommendations in Wake of Child Molestation Charges
 

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By Jorge Casuso

October 10, 2019 -- A consultant will present the City Council next Tuesday with recommendations on how officials might have detected and prevented an alleged series of sex crimes by a City employee who volunteered at a youth program.

The review of the City's policies and practices by Praesidium, Inc was launched after Eric Uller was charged last October with lewd acts with a minor dating back to the 1990s, when he was a City employee volunteering at the Santa Monica Police Activities League (PAL).

Shortly after the charges were filed, the City announced it was hiring Praesidium to "review the policies and practices of its youth programs and provide guidance on best practices for preventing any future incidents of abuse."

The 25-year-old firm, City officials said, has "a national reputation for assisting organizations in evaluating, designing, and implementing best practices to prevent and detect sexual abuse of minors."

Praesidium's review included two site visits to "observe City youth programs in action," City officials said Wednesday.

The first took place in early March "to observe programs active during the school year," officials said.

It was followed by one in late July "to observe programs active during the summer break."

The City also launched an independent investigation of allegations that City officials had been told of Uller's behavior and did nothing to address it ("High Ranking Santa Monica Officials Told About Alleged Child Molestation, School Board Member Says," October 22, 2018).

That investigation -- conducted by Irma Rodriguez Moises and Gabriel Sandoval of the law firm of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo -- remains ongoing, City officials said.

When the probes were launched, Oscar de la Torre, who runs the Pico Youth and Family Center and knows some of Uller's victims, worried about the objectivity of findings by consultants hired by the City.

"The journey towards healing must include justice, accountability and transparency," said de la Torre, a member of the School Board.

"So far the elected and appointed leaders of the City of Santa Monica have set up road blocks and we hope that they will change."

Uller was charged on October 22 with five counts of sexual crimes against four teenage boys ("Santa Monica City Employee Charged with Five Counts of Sexual Crimes," October 23, 2018).

He faced 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.

After the charges were filed, six other alleged victims stepped forward, and the Sheriff's Special Victims Unit said it believed there could be others.

Three weeks after beng charged, Uller killed himself in his Marina del Rey apartment ("Uller Found Dead in Apparent Suicide," November 15, 2018).

A week later, an alleged child molestation victim of the deceased suspect filed a damages claim against the City for failing to protect children in the PAL program ("Alleged Molestation Victim Sues City For Failing to Protect PAL Youth," November 21, 2018).

This year, nine other victims filed claims alleging City and PAL officials failed to investigate and covered up reports that Uller was molesting children enrolled in the program.

Uller is the second person associated with Santa Monica PAL arrested for child molestation.

Donald Condon, a former PAL employee, was arrested in 2014 and charged with five counts of child molestation.

Condon accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to three years probation and required to register as a sex offender.

Tuesday's presentation to the Counciil is a Special Agenda Item and will begin at around 6:30 p.m.

City staff anticipates returning to Council with a resolution resulting from Praesidium’s recommendations at a future Council meeting, according to the City Manager's office.


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