LEE -- With the application deadline approaching, 11 candidates are seeking to replace ousted Police Chief Joseph Buffis, who was fired last month.

Town officials expect the stack of resumes to increase further before the deadline to file applications expires on Monday, Sept. 30. The annual salary for that position ranges from $58,055 to $77,528, according to an advertisement.

A 33-year veteran of the Lee police force, Buffis was earning nearly $74,000 a year before he was removed from the position for allegedly improperly billing the town for his personal cellphone use.

Meanwhile, Town Administrator Robert Nason has appointed a nine-person citizens committee that will assist Nason and the Board of Selectmen in selecting a new chief. A decision is likely before the holidays.

"The committee will work a lot in October and hopefully conclude its work by Thanksgiving," Nason said during the board's regular meeting Wednesday night.


In search of ...

Lee Town Administrator Robert Nason has named the nine-member search committee that will assist him and the Board of Selectmen in selecting a new Lee police chief.

• Neil Clarke, retired teacher, chairman of the town Personnel Committee and town meeting representative. 

• Marilyn Hansen, businesswoman, member Lee Conservation Commission. 

• Ann Doyle Deely, local attorney, former Lee Planning Board member. 

• Buck Donovan, president Lee Youth Association, Planning Board member, town meeting representative. 

• Ronald Glidden, former Lee police chief 1994-2011, currently interim police chief. 

• Joseph Trumel, principal Lee Middle and High School 

• Alan Sparks, Lee fire chief 

• Norma Maroney, retired director Lee Council on Aging

• Marcia Sloaminsky, Lee business owner


The ad hoc citizens panel would be similar to the one created two years ago that recommended Buffis for the job. At that time, Buffis was picked to replace Ronald Glidden, who retired after 17 years as Lee's police chief. Glidden currently is serving as the town's interim police chief until a permanent replacement for Buffis is found. Glidden also was named to the search committee, which includes municipal officials, business owners and civic leaders.

"It's a good mix of people," Selectman David Consolati said. "I hope the search works out this time."

As in the previous search, the committee will review resumes, hold final interviews in public, and make a final recommendation to Nason, who, with the Selectmen's approval, has the municipal authority to hire a new police chief.

In 2011, a seven-member panel chose Buffis and longtime Lee police Officer Adrian Kohlenberger as the two of the three finalists. Nason declined to say if Lee Police Department members are among the current list of candidates.

"I wouldn't announce that due to confidentiality," he said.

Buffis' successor will oversee a municipal police department of 10 full-time officers that includes one sergeant, five reserve officers, and one full-time administrative assistant. The chief also supervises five civilian emergency dispatchers and acts as the town's emergency management director. Those three positions oversee departments with a combined operating budget of $1.1 million.

On Aug. 20, the Board of Selectmen voted to terminate Buffis' contract at a public meeting, saying the chief billed the town for nearly $5,000 over a two-year period for his family cell phone plan with Verizon Wireless.

Buffis, through his attorney Lori Levinson, claims Nason had agreed the town would pay for his personal cellphone service when he was hired as chief in September 2011. But Nason has emphatically denied the claim, as has town attorney Jeremia Pollard.

The three-member board said its unanimous decision to fire Buffis -- on Nason's recommendation -- was unrelated to a federal indictment accusing the former police chief of extortion and money laundering.

On Aug. 29, Buffis was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Springfield on one count of extortion by wrongful use of fear and three counts of money laundering. He was released on personal recognizance, pending a status hearing Dec. 4.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, in February 2012, Buffis coerced a Lee couple to donate $4,000 to the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund that he controlled in exchange for a deal in which he would not go forward with prostitution-related charges against them.

According to federal prosecutors, Buffis then transferred that money to his own account, used it for personal expenses and lied to investigators about it.

Buffis, 55, has denied the charges. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison on each count if convicted.

To reach Dick Lindsay: rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6233.