LEE -- From Texas to the Berkshires, dozens of candidates are vying to replace ousted Police Chief Joseph Buffis, who was fired six weeks ago by the Lee Board of Selectmen.
As of Monday’s application deadline, town officials received 57 resumes for the full-time position.
"There are Lee residents who’ve applied" for the full-time position, according to Town Administrator Robert Nason. He declined to say whether any of them work for the Lee Police Department.
Selectmen Chairman Gordon Bailey said the search is encouraged by the number of applicants.
"The more you have, the better off you are, as it gives you a chance to look at a broad spectrum of candidates," he said following the board’s regular meeting Tuesday night.
The position is advertised with an annual salary range from $58,055 to $77,528.
Buffis, a 33-year veteran of the Lee police force, was earning nearly $74,000 a year before he was fired amid accusations of improperly billing the town for his personal cellphone use.
Next week, the nine-member citizens search committee, which Nason appointed two weeks ago, will hold an organizational meeting in public. However, the committee’s review of the applications and first round of interviews of selected candidates will be conducted in executive session.
From there, the ad hoc panel will chose a list of finalists to be interviewed during a public meeting and make a recommendation to Nason. The administrator, with the Selectmen’s approval, has the municipal authority to hire a police chief. A decision is likely to be made before Thanksgiving.
The search committee is 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 is currently 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.
Buffis’ successor will oversee a municipal police department of 10 full-time officers, supervise five civilian emergency dispatchers and act as the town’s emergency management director. These areas account for a combined operating budget of $1.1 million.
On Aug. 20, the Lee 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 cellphone 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. Nason 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 Dec. 4 status hearing.
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.
Federal prosecutors said 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.