Former Barrington Code Officer sentenced

Staff reports
The Chronicle Express
The Olney Place on Rte. 54 in Barrington.

PENN YAN – After months of delay following years of acrimony, another chapter in the saga of the Olney Place, and the Town of Barrington drew to a close. In Yates County Criminal Court last Thursday, Aug. 6, Judge Jason Cook passed sentence on Barrington’s former Code Enforcement Officer, John Griffin. But like many moments in this story, the sentencing was memorable.

Griffin was represented by retained counsel Travis Barry, who argued his case directly to Cook in the bench trial, facing Assistant District Attorney Alyxandra Stanczak. 

Central to the prosecution’s case was a video recording made by Griffin himself as he confronted Olney in his store, as well as testimony from Olney, State Police, and State Liquor Authority agents.

In March, Cook found Griffin guilty of 2nd degree criminal impersonation as a misdemeanor, for impersonating an employee of the SLA at the Olney Place in Barrington. Cook found Griffin not guilty of the two felony charges in the indictment: 1st degree offering a false instrument for filing and issuing a false certificate.

At the sentencing last week, Olney made his Victim Impact Statement in person, saying he didn’t believe there was a sentence available to the court that could make up for the damage to his business. “The era of the bullying of citizens by public officials is over,” said Olney. “It’s time for John Griffin to feel the consequences of his actions.”

John Griffin

Stanczak requested Griffin be sentenced to pay a $1,000 fine plus mandatory surcharge and DNA registry fee, and serve 250 hours of community service while on two years probation. 

In his statement, citing unnamed medical problems, Barry asked that Griffin be fined possibly, and granted a conditional discharge. Barry admitted that on the video, his client “went too far, or worded it poorly. In doing so, he entangled himself in a mess. But the business and the town are responsible for that mess, not John Griffin.” 

When it was time for Griffin to speak before sentencing, his mess suddenly got messier. Rather than pleading for leniency or accepting responsibility or the judgement of the court, Griffin chose to launch into a diatribe against Olney, saying that “none of this is the way he says.” Griffin accused Olney of harassing him, using language and describing gestures of such vulgarity that it startled some members of the court. He also said he believes Olney “has mental health issues” and called him a sociopath.

Judge Cook wasted little time in letting Griffin know where he had gone wrong.

“The Court is struck at this moment and by your letter of June 29 that you don’t have a single ounce of remorse for anything you did,” said Cook. “Your letter shows your contempt, hostility, and animosity for Seth Olney.” Speaking of the video, Cook said, “You throw the SLA title and authority around to get Seth Olney to shut down on a Sunday while he has customers. You exceeded your authority.”

Cook cited the Probation report that Griffin has no prior felonies and was assessed a “low risk” for reoffending. He sentenced Griffin to a $1,000 fine plus $200 surcharge and $50 DNA registry fee, and to complete 150 hours of community service while on a 1-year conditional discharge.

Case background

The investigation was conducted by the New York State Police in conjunction with the Yates County District Attorney’s office, of conduct that occurred in 2014 and 2016 regarding the Town of Barrington, The Olney Place on East Lake Road/Rte. 54, and the N.Y. State Liquor Authority.

Barrington was tangled in conflicts with Seth Olney, the owner of The Olney Place and son of long time town board member, Deputy Supervisor Nate Olney. Griffin was cited by State Police in connection to documents he filed with town officials regarding The Olney Place; namely, two certificates of occupancy for a taproom addition to the Olney Place, each with different dates.

Olney and his attorney alleged Griffin falsified the business’s certificate of occupancy (C of O) in an attempt to mislead New York SLA officials. Judge Dennis Bender ruled against Barrington, affirming that the SLA has exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether Olney will be allowed a liquor license to serve beer in a room that was added to the Route 54 store in 2014.

Olney said the significance of the different dates is the fact that Griffin was well aware beer taps were there when he signed the C of O, and the second C of O was Griffin’s attempt to mislead SLA officials into believing that Olney installed the taps after the C of O had been issued. Bender’s decision included a footnote: “While not dispositive herein, it is not without irony that the building inspector apparently sat at the bar when he executed the certificate of occupancy.”

A civil suit by Olney against the Town of Barrington is still pending.