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High Ranking Santa Monica Officials Told About Alleged Child Molestation, School Board Member Says
By Jorge Casuso
October 22, 2018 -- School Board member Oscar de la Torre said he personally alerted high-ranking law enforcement and City officials that City employee Eric Uller had allegedly molested children as a Police Activities League (PAL) volunteer.
But City officials, he said, took no action to stop Uller, who was arrested Thursday morning for sexually assaulting four teen-age boys in the the 1990s ("Employee Arrested for Lewd Acts with a Minor," October 18, 2018).
De la Torre, who runs the Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC), said he had talked to several Latino men who claim they were molested by Uller when they were Middle School students living in the Pico Neighborhood.
"It was common knowledge that the individual was molesting children," de la Torre said. "Law enforcement officials knew about the rumors, and he was removed from PAL and given a promotion within the City government."
On Friday City officials issued the following statement.
“The City is aware of the additional allegations that the City was aware of Mr. Uller’s conduct and did nothing to address it.
"The City is in the process of retaining outside counsel to conduct a comprehensive investigation of these allegations."
The Sheriff's special victims unit launched its investigation in June at the request of the Santa Monica Police Department, according to Sheriff's Deputy Armando Viera Jr.
The department had received a letter from the wife of one of the victims outlining Uller's alleged behavior, de la Torre said.
De la Torre, who has been a youth leader in the Pico Neighborhood for two decades, said City officials have long known about Uller's alleged behavior.
De la Torre said that he personally informed high-ranking law enforcement officials starting in the early 2000s about Uller, who is a systems analyst working in the Public Safety building.
He also said he alerted officials in Community and Cultural Services, the department that oversees PAL, and PAL's former director.
A former PAL employee also filed a formal complaint with PAL and was reprimanded "for spreading gossip about PAL volunteers," he said.
To his knowledge, none of the complaints were investigated, de la Torre said.
"(Uller) was protected from the police chief all the way down to the PAL director," he said. "We want to know why?"
In June 2015, the issue of child molestation at PAL was brought up publicly at a City Council meeting during a debate over City funding for the PYFC.
A year earlier, Donald Condon, a former PAL employee, had been arrested and charged with five counts of child molestation.
He accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to three years probation and required to register as a sex offender.
When a supporter of the PYFC tried to broach the subject, he was cut off by then Mayor Kevin McKeown and his microphone was turned off, de la Torre said.
That year, the City Council voted to eliminate all public funding from the PYFC ("Santa Monica Youth Center Denied Grant after Final Plea for Funding," June 24, 2015).
Although City officials have said Uller a was a volunteer, former PAL participants have told de la Torre that he was there almost every day.
"He was at PAL on a daily basis," de la Torre said. "He was famous for taking kids to lunch unsupervised."
Uller would wear a police department polo shirt with a stenciled badge, had handcuffs strapped to his belt and monitored police dispatch calls on a hand-held radio, de la Torre said.
He also drove an unmarked police car.
"He committed his crimes under cover of authority," de la Torre said.
The investigation of Uller is ongoing, Viera said. Bail for Uller has been set at $2 million.
"The City will take all steps to protect youth participants in all City programs, and to determine whether there have been any past failings to live up to this commitment.”
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