“Relieved. Somewhat apprehensive. It’s a new job, but overall excited. Can’t wait to get started.”
Those are the words of Jeffrey Roosa following Tuesday’s meeting in which the Selectmen unanimously approved Town Administrator Robert Nason’s recommendation to hire Roosa as Lee’s police chief. Roosa, a 40 year-old Lee native, began his law enforcement career with the Sheffield police department before returning to serve his hometown in 2001. He was promoted to sergeant in February 2012.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind," Roosa said. "Just under two years ago I was a patrolman and then I became a sergeant. That in itself was a cultural change between myself and the guys I worked with. Now there’s even a bigger difference. We’re all friends, but everyone knows that we have jobs to do and there’s a pecking order and we work within that.”
Roosa was among 70 candidates vying for the position after the Selectmen approved Nason’s recommendation to fire former chief Joseph Buffis. Nason said the termination was based on a misappropriation of more than $5,000 in town funds to pay for cell phones and cell service for Buffis and his family. Buffis’ attorney Lori Levinson has said Buffis reached a verbal agreement with Nason that the town would pay for the plan as part of his compensation package. Nason denied having such talks. Levinson had said she would appeal the town’s decision, but has not done so. Selectman David Consolati says the hiring allows the town to move on to the next chapter.
“I think the position of chief has its ups and downs,” Consolati said. “We were lucky to have someone who was chief for a lot of years here and was able to step in so we had continuity and we were able to move along until we were able to come up with a new full-time chief.”
After Buffis was fired, Ronald Glidden came on as interim chief, having served in that role from 1994 to 2011 before Buffis took the reins. Glidden says stepping back into the lead role was both an honor and a challenge.
“Basically doing the day-to-day stuff that a chief needs to do move the department forward, at the same time as reviewing everything that’s happened in the past couple years to make sure that there was nothing missed as far as auditing, financial issues and stuff like that,” Glidden explained. “So we wanted to go everywhere we could to uncover any stones if there were any problems anywhere and to be able to document that so we think that we’ve done that in the past few months.”
Before being fired, Buffis was placed on administrative leave following federal charges of money laundering and extortion. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, in February 2012, Buffis allegedly forced the couple who owns the Laurel Inn to make donations to the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund, which was controlled by Buffis, on the stipulation that the chief would drop prostitution-related charges against them. Once the $4,000 had been deposited, Buffis withdrew $3,990 and placed it into a joint personal bank account. Buffis pleaded not guilty in August and faces between 41 and 51 months in federal prison if convicted. Interim chief Glidden was also on the nine-member search committee that unanimously recommended Roosa to be the new chief.
“It really wasn’t a matter of somebody coming in and restoring anything because I think the belief in the department was already there for the community,” Glidden said. “It’s just we needed someone to come in, do a tough job, do well at it and be able to get along with the officers.”
The Selectmen also approved a change to the town’s contract with its police chief in terms of misconduct that leads to termination. When Buffis was fired, the town was required to pay him for 120 days of work because he wasn’t given 120 days notice of his termination. Selectmen Consolati says that is no longer the case.
“We are being proactive,” Consolati said. “It shouldn’t be up to the taxpayers to fund some wrong behavior.”
Glidden will stay on with the department for 20 days to assist Roosa in the transition process.