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Reported Federal Investigation Involves Berkshire Town Donation Fund

A federal investigation is reportedly underway involving a long-standing toy fund in the Berkshire town of Lee.

Though many details remain to be clarified, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Springfield is currently conducting an investigation into possible criminal activity surrounding Lee’s Laliberte Toy Fund, originally created in 1958 by the late Lee police officer Edward Laliberte. The fund provides toys to needy children around the holidays.

The Berkshire Eagle reports that earlier this week, the U.S. Attorney requested copies of printed updates of the toy fund in the newspaper between October 2007 and January 2012.

Kevin Moran, managing editor at the Berkshire Eagle, and author of Wednesday’s article, wrote that the request by the U.S. Attorney’s office is the “official confirmation” of a criminal investigation surrounding the Laliberte Toy Fund. Moran spoke to WAMC and said that the main focus of the investigation remains unclear.

Last November, the FBI searched the Lee Police Department, but has not disclosed the purpose of that investigation. The FBI also reportedly searched the home of police chief Joseph Buffis, longtime manager of the Laliberte Toy Fund. In December, Buffis told the Eagle that fund was under “reorganization.” Buffis no longer runs the fund, but refused to comment after a request by the Berkshire Eagle about the U.S. Attorney’s request for the published toy fund updates.

No criminal charges have been filed against Buffis or any of the other members of the Lee police department, but 11 officers of the department have gone on record with the Eagle stating that they were not involved or were subject of the investigation by the FBI and state police with the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office last November.

Kevin Moran said that while no charges have been filed, no conclusions can be made, but questions are being raised.

The Berkshire Eagle has no financial or managerial connection to the Laliberte Toy Fund.

Meanwhile the select board of the Berkshire town of Egremont has recently hired Plymouth-based Pomeroy Resources, Inc. to conduct a review of its police department.

The decision by the select board to hire Pomeroy Resources comes after the recent suspension of police chief Reena Bucknell.

Bruce Turner, chair of the Egremont select board says that the town hired the agency to conduct a review in a way that’s fair to all members of the police department.

Turner explained that the decision was made to place Bucknell on administrative leave by the select board after the town’s unionized officers complained of a “hostile work environment” at the department.

A message left for Chief Bucknell at her academic department at Berkshire Community College, where she oversees a Criminal Justice degree program, was not returned.


Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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