Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

Santa Monica will hire a consultant to prevent sexual abuse in city-run youth programs more than a year after allegations that a former city employee had abused at least 14 boys came to light.

The city first retained the consultant, Praesidium, to help standardize training, policies and procedures to prevent and detect child sexual abuse in city programs after former city employee Eric Uller was arrested in October 2018 for sexually abusing children while volunteering with the Santa Monica Police Activities League during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

On Tuesday, the City Council is set to approve hiring Praesidium as a “child protection officer” to review the practices of city-run youth programs, conduct on-site evaluations and design annual training.

The company, which has 25 years of experience in youth abuse protection and has developed policies for the University of California and Boys & Girls Clubs of America, will serve as child protection officer through June 2021 on a $220,000 contract. City Council may choose to rehire Praesidium for an additional three years on a $135,000 annual contract.

In response to recommendations Praesidium presented to City Council last October, the city will establish a code of conduct for city youth programs to prevent abuse, standardize training, reporting and responding procedures for incidents of abuse and red flag behaviors, screen all youth program volunteers and establish a Child Protection Committee to oversee implementation of the recommendations.

City Council will also adopt a resolution Tuesday that emphasizes that everyone, no matter their role with the city, needs to understand that safety and the protection of children is part of their jobs.

City staff said a child protection officer will be responsible for implementing many of the new requirements, including centralized collection of materials relating to all City-managed youth programs, ongoing annual review of those materials to ensure compliance with evolving best practices, continuing periodic on site reviews of the operations of city-managed youth programs, and the design and monitoring of annual reminder training.

City staff said Praesidium did not seek to serve as the city’s child protection officer but is willing to fill the position.

“Praesidium has the expertise, experience and resources to perform the required functions of the child protection officer and, in doing so, to train existing city staff, whom staff anticipates will ultimately take on the role of child protection officer following the initial engagement with Praesidium,” staff said in a report.

Staff said contracting with Praesidium has advantages over either assigning the position’s duties to an existing city position or recruiting and hiring a full-time employee for the position. Praesidium’s contract will also be lower than the annual salary and benefits of a full-time city employee with the required experience and skills, staff said.

“The duties required of the position, at least initially, are more than could be handled on a part-time basis as an adjunct to an existing city position,” the report said. “It would also be very difficult to find any individual, either already employed by the city or as a new hire, who could provide the same level of experience and ability in this role as Praesidium.”

City Council will meet Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Civic Center East Wing, 1855 Main St.

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