Griffin reinstated, Olney Place closes
BARRINGTON--In a quick reversal of decision, the town of Barrington rehired Building and Zoning Officer John Griffin Tuesday, Oct. 4, after firing him Wednesday, Sept. 28. The decision to rehire Griffin came during a special meeting of the board Oct. 4, where the town indicated they were considering temporarily hiring Brian Quackenbush to fill in for Griffin.
"John was rehired because upon further reflection, the board concluded that he had performed his job diligently for over six years and deserved a second chance," said Attorney Richard Buck Jr., who is representing the town in the current Olney lawsuit. He refused to give more detail on the situation as the issues "concern pending litigation and would be inappropriate to comment upon."
After this decision, Seth Olney, owner of the Olney Place located at 823 E. Lake Road, announced he was closing the Olney Place "indefinitely." Olney said Sunday, Oct. 9 was his official last day, adding the store will be closed for "an undetermined amount of time."
The dispute between Olney and the town began around the use of the property -- specifically regarding the additions of a deck and tap room -- along with the sale and consumption of alcohol, and related noise.
Griffin was initially fired following an executive session held after the regular town board meeting Wednesday, Sept. 28. The board did not state the reasons why Griffin was fired. This was also the same meeting Olney offered to withdraw his lawsuit against the town if they confirm to the New York State Liquor Authority the town has always supported the sale and consumption of beer in his store, the adjacent lawn and additions of a porch and back room.
"I'm at my wits end," Olney said. "I was hoping the peace offering would result in a change in trajectory."
Olney's Attorney Jessica Bryant also served Griffin with another lawsuit for "defamation of character" at the same meeting. While the lawsuit did not initially include the town, Bryant confirmed the rehiring of Griffin has changed the situation.
"At this time, I've prepared a notice of claim, which is the first step in suing a municipal body for any sort of a tort," Bryant said. "What that entails is serving this notice on the town, which gives them 30 days to basically resolve or look into the issue. After that the lawsuit is able to be filed."
Bryant said during the meeting where they informed the town of the issue, Griffin stated all of the allegations he made against Olney as part of his monthly report. She said when he was reinstated, they felt it "was a clear indication that in some way, they were condoning his actions."
Bryant also commented on a $250 a day fine implemented by the town that goes back to July 18. She said she does not believe the town properly served Olney with the zoning code violation, adding she does not believe it is even valid to begin with.
"They've always been under this impression that it is their job to police the taproom," Bryant said. "But it also included stuff about people standing on the deck, which the judge already determined they can't put new conditions on that. We can't even make sense of it. It is difficult to advise a client about something that is so unclearly put together."
Barrington town supervisor Phil Warren along with Barrington Trustee Sue Lange were telephoned for comments on this story last week. None of the Barrington town representatives returned a call.