Mixed verdict on former Barrington Code Officer

John Christensen The Chronicle-Express
The Olney Place, located on Route 54 on Keuka Lake.

After suspending Yates County Court for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, late Monday afternoon, Judge Jason Cook rendered his decision on the case of John Griffin. 

Yates County District Attorney Todd Casella stated that Cook found Griffin guilty of 2nd degree criminal impersonation as a misdemeanor, for impersonating an employee of the State Liquor Authority 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.

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 in an attempt to mislead New York State Liquor Authority 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.”

In Yates County Criminal Court, 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 SLA agents.

The case is scheduled for June 9 for post-verdict motions and June 30 for sentencing. A pre-sentence investigation was ordered, and Griffin release on his own recognizance was continued.