A victim of Eric Uller announced Tuesday morning that he intends to sue the City of Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Police Activities League for the sexual assault of a minor.
Rogelio Monroy, now an adult, alleges Uller molested him in the early 1990s while Uller was a PAL volunteer. His attorney Brian Claypool is demanding that PAL suspend all operations until an auditor independent of the City conducts an investigation to determine why PAL could not protect children in the program. Claypool is also requesting a neutral agency investigate allegations that City staff knew Uller and another former City employee, Don Condon, had molested children in the program.
The City is conducting an internal investigation into the allegations. Condon was sentenced to three years of probation in 2015 on misdemeanor child molestation charges, and Uller was found dead in his apartment Thursday in what police deemed an apparent suicide. He was scheduled to appear in court that morning on multiple felony counts of lewd acts upon a child, oral copulation of a person under 18 and continuous sexual abuse.
“We’re asking for a suspension of PAL until there’s a truly outside and objective audit of the program to determine whether its internal controls are an effective safeguard against child predators,” Claypool said.
The City released a statement Tuesday morning that it has engaged an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation into allegations that the City previously knew or should have known of, but failed to address, Uller’s alleged criminal conduct. The City is also retaining Praesidium, an outside consultant, to review the policies and practices of its current youth programs to ensure that best practices for preventing incidents of abuse are in place throughout City programs.
Claypool said he does not think the City should oversee its own investigation and finds it hard to believe City staff did not see any abuse during Uller’s time as a PAL volunteer.
As one of the lead attorneys in a case prosecuting Los Angeles Unified School District for child abuse at Miramonte Elementary School for failing to take action in response to misconduct complaints, he said it’s unlikely that Uller and Condon could molest children in the same program for so many years without someone taking notice.
“There’s going to be some type of red flag that this person is unfit to be among these kids,” he said. “That to me suggests a potential cover-up of information the City knew or should have known about.”
Monroy said Uller groomed him for months, picking him up in his truck from PAL events and taking him to pizza parlors and arcades, and claimed to be a police officer. Claypool said that indicates the program failed to properly supervise and vet volunteers.
“What kind of vetting process do they have that allows volunteers unfettered access to at-risk youth?” Claypool said. “You’re allowing a complete stranger to enter that kid’s life without any supervision.”
PAL’s 1996 president, Joe Palazollo, claimed the organization did not know about Uller’s behavior at a community meeting earlier this month.
“I knew a lot of the people (in PAL) and ran into Uller a couple times, and what I find incredible is the allegations people have made that they covered things up,” he said. “The people I knew there would have killed the guy if they knew. They were there for the kids, and I can’t imagine them staying silent.”
Monroy said he is speaking publicly about Uller’s abuse to inspire other victims to come forward.
“It doesn’t matter that Uller is dead,” Claypool said. “We want to know how many victims are out there and prevent this from happening again.”
Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Eric Uller had spent almost two decades as a Santa Monica Police Activities League volunteer. In fact, it is currently unknown how long Uller volunteered in the program.