LEE -- Nearly a dozen candidates remain in the hunt to replace former Police Chief Joseph Buffis, who was fired two months ago by the Lee Board of Selectmen.
A nine-member citizens search committee has narrowed the original list of 57 applicants to 11, after reviewing all their resumes, according to Town Administrator Robert Nason.
The committee on Monday will review the replies to questionnaires that were sent to the 11 candidates. The ad hoc panel hopes to further narrow the group to a short list of finalists for the job, Nason said.
"We're trying to get a sense of what the field of candidates have to offer," he said.
The police chief's 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.
The committee's review of the applications and questionnaires of selected candidates are being conducted in executive session. The citizens group will likely interview the candidates 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. He 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.
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.
In August, 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, said Nason agreed that 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.
Nason and the Selectmen say Buffis' firing was unrelated to a federal indictment handed down this summer accusing the ousted police chief of extortion and money laundering.
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.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
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