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Council Votes to Settle Remaining Sexual Abuse Cases for $122.5 Million

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Editor's note: This article was updated at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday to reflect that the vote was 5 to 0, not 4 to 0 as previously reported.

By Jorge Casuso

April 25, 2023 -- The City Council Tuesday evening voted 5 to 0 to pay $122.5 million to settle the remaining lawsuits filed by 124 plaintiffs who claim a former City employee sexually abused them when they were children and teens two to three decades ago.

The final settlements bring the total number of plaintiffs to 229 and the total settlement amount to $229,825,000, making it likely the largest sexual abuse settlement by a city in the nation's history.

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The City -- which will pay an initial $70 million over the next ten days -- will need to use general fund money and borrow from its Workers Compensation Fund, said City Manager David White.

It also will have to sell properties and use Housing Fund money, effectively halting funding for affordable housing in 2022, 2023 and 2024, White said. The settlement payments will not affect City services.

"The City has planned for the settlement," White said. "This financial plan is centered on protecting City employees and programs."

In addition, the City is taking steps to prevent incidents like those allegedly committed by former City employee Eric Uller, who is accused of sexually abusing minors when he was a volunteer at the Police Activities League (PAL) between approximately 1987 and 1999.

The City will create a child protection committee, impose a citywide code of conduct and update standardized screening for volunteers, White said.

It also will expand the mandated training for staff and contractors who work with youth and seek a volunteer coordinator to oversee the volunteering process.

"Obviously our hearts go out to the victims," said Mayor Gleam Davis. "The City is absolutely committed to ensuring that these unconscionable acts don't ever happen again."

Davis said the City is now focused on "rebuilding and recovery."

"We are glad to put this behind us," Davis said. "This was a sad chapter in our City's history."

The first lawsuits against the City were filed in March, 2019, less than five months after Uller was arrested by LA County Sheriffs for lewd acts with a minor ("Santa Monica City Employee Arrested for Lewd Acts with a Minor," October 18, 2018).

On November 15, 2018, days after pleading not guilty and bailing out of custody, Uller was found dead of an apparent suicide on the morning of his next scheduled court appearance.

To date, the City has paid $107,325,000 to settle the cases filed by the 105 plaintiffs. Of that amount, only $8,929,768 has been covered by insurance, according to the City's financial statements ("City Seeks to Recoup Nearly $100 Million Settlement Bill," December 20, 2022).

To recoup "at least some and potentially a substantial portion of the settlement funds," the City has filed lawsuits against six of its insurers "alleging breach of contract and bad faith," according to the statements.

Most of Uller's alleged victims were Latino boys between the ages of 12 and 15 from the Pico Neighborhood, according to attorney Dave Ring, who represented most of the plaintiffs in the second settlement. The youngest was eight.

The votes for the settlement were cast by Davis, Councilmembers Caroline Torosis, Phil Brock, Christine Parra and Jesse Zwick. Councilmembers Lana Negrete was absent, and Oscar de la Torre recused himself.

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