Arroyo Grande mayoral candidate suing brother, sister and son
October 13, 2016
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Arroyo Grande mayoral candidate Richard Waller says he will be able to unite the community and bring civility to the council if he’s elected. Waller touts his family’s long-term ties to the community and his ability to promote open discussions.
But a family fight over his mother June Waller’s estate has spilled over into the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court. Richard Waller is suing his sister, brother, son and other relatives.
Richard Waller, a retired teacher, claims in the lawsuit that his family members schemed against him and his wife, to deny them the inheritance his mother had promised.
Three versions of his mother’s will pass her estate which includes 13 properties, stocks, bonds, money, jewelry, the ranch, homes and leased agricultural lands to her blood relatives with each of her four children and/or their children receiving 25 percent. Both of her two living sons would have the use of one of her properties until they die.
The suit is based on Richard Waller’s disagreement over the latest version of the will which designates which home he will be permitted to live in. He also is suing over other stipulations in the will.
June Waller died in April 2015, and he filed the suit against the other family member listed in the will a few months later.
Now, Caroline Waller is supporting the campaign of her brother’s opponent, incumbent Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill. Other members of the Waller family are also backing Hill in his bid for reelection.
In Arroyo Grande, most of the current crop of candidates for city office are aligned either with Hill or with the council majority that existed prior to a political shakeup in 2014. That year, voters chose Hill, a write-in candidate, over Tony Ferrara, a 16-year incumbent mayor, following a city hall sex scandal and coverup.
Hill has since faced accusations of causing division at the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District. However, the sanitation district is operating at lower costs with cleaner output with Hill on the board than it had been during Ferrara’s tenure.
In his bid to unseat Hill, Richard Waller has aligned himself with Ferrara-allies Councilwoman Kristen Barneich and Caren Ray, a former councilwoman and county supervisor. Both Barneich and Ray are seeking fresh terms on the Arroyo Grande Council. Waller, along with Barneich and Ray, is campaigning on a platform of restoring civility in Arroyo Grande.
“I commit to upholding the highest standards of civility in Arroyo Grande city government,” Richard Waller stated on his campaign Facebook page last week.
Critics say Richard Waller’s legal actions against his closest relatives indicate he does not exemplify civility.
Richard Waller grew up in Arroyo Grande but spent most of his life away from the Central Coast. In 2007, he retired from an elementary school teaching job in Nevada and moved back to the Arroyo Grande ranch on which he grew up in order to take care of his elderly mother, his campaign website states.
In exchange for taking care of his mother, Richard Waller and his wife would get to live the rest of their lives on the rural Arroyo Grande ranch, his lawsuit states. Richard Waller would also get an 18.75 percent stake in his mother’s estate and his son would get 6.25 percent, according to the suit. A promise reflected in the mother’s original will.
However, Richard Waller failed to live up to the promises he made his mother and she amended her will, according to a response to the lawsuit that was filed by his family.
Richard Waller alleges his sister, Caroline Waller, took advantage of their mother’s illness and forced her to amend the will. The amendment resulted in Richard Waller and his wife receiving lifetime privileges of living in a modular home. His brother John Waller, who helped take care of his mother for 20 years, gets to live in the ranch house.
In Caroline Waller’s response to the suit, she alleges Richard Waller’s relationship with their mother became strained because he failed to keep his promises to care for her and maintain her properties. Additionally, their mother became concerned Richard Waller would give the assets he inherited to his wife and step-children, rather than to his biological son, Caroline Waller alleges.
Christopher Waller-Bennett is Richard Waller’s biological child, and he is the grandson of June Waller. Waller-Bennet is one of the beneficiaries of June Waller’s trust and one of the defendants listed in his father’s lawsuit.
The other defendants Richard Waller names in the lawsuit are Caroline Waller, John Waller, Taylor Waller and Austin Waller — his brother, niece and nephew. Additionally, Richard Waller lists 20 Jane Does in his lawsuit. John or Jane Does are persons whose names are not listed but who could be named in the course of the suit.
Richard Waller did not respond to several requests for comment about the suit and his campaign.
Caroline Waller said she could not discuss the lawsuit but mentioned that Richard Waller is estranged from many of his blood relatives.
“He is the nastiest person I have ever known,” Caroline Waller said.