Shandaken building inspector charged with forcible touching

By Jay Braman Jr.
Shandaken Building Inspector Richard Stokes, 54, was arrested late last Tuesday, September 18 and charged with forcible touching.

The charges stem from an alleged incident that occurred in April at the opening night party for J Rocco’s, a then new steakhouse in town, and coincide with Rocco’s owner, Eric Risher making a public complaint against Stokes just 10 days prior to the arrest, claiming Stokes has been using the power of his position to harass Risher ever since the grand opening.

It became clear that an arrest was expected when Risher stood at the microphone at the September 10 town board meeting and spoke at length about Stokes. Risher described Stokes as being very intoxicated when Stokes arrived at the grand opening and had made the waitresses uncomfortable. Risher made Stokes leave the restaurant and Stokes is no longer allowed in.

Legal action planned
While speaking to the town board, Risher warned that those waitresses were planning to take some form of legal action, and also complained to the board that Stokes has been harassing Risher and singling out his restaurant for unannounced inspections.

Supervisor Rob Stanley, who was with Stokes the night of the grand opening, would not discuss the matter publicly, stating that it is against the law to discuss personnel matters in a public forum.
On Monday Stanley said that he and the rest of the town board are in discussions with the town attorney about how to proceed with Stokes.

The Shandaken town board met in a quickly arranged meeting on September 13, called an “emergency session,” to deal with a situation concerning a zoning/building matter. At that meeting it was announced that Stokes was out of town at a training seminar and the town board needed to appoint a temporary inspector to investigate and deal with the matter.

Stanley made it clear Monday that the hiring of a temporary building inspector was entirely unrelated to the J Rocco’s allegations. Stanley said a property owner was challenging the validity of a building permit of a neighboring landowner and that a building inspector was need to immediately review the permit in order for work to proceed.

Town of Olive Building Inspector Dominic Covello was hired for the task.