The public’s business should not be kept a secret.

When Mansfield Town Manager Kevin Dumas placed Police Chief Ron Sellon on paid administrative leave nine months ago, the public should have been informed.

In fact, the news that Sellon was not on the job only after came to light when a member of the select board asked about the chief’s status in March.

Dumas disclosed Sellon’s leave status a month later in response to a public record’s request from The Sun Chronicle.

The request was initially denied by the town, but the newspaper received the information after an appeal to the state’s Supervisor of Public Records through the Freedom of Information Act.

Certainly not all administrative leaves involving municipal employees need to be made public. But there is a different standard for a police chief. The public has every right to know when the employee in charge of law enforcement in their community has been taken off the job.

There are several other reasons why Dumas should have notified the public after placing Sellon on leave.

First, the chief was taken off the job after allegations of workplace misconduct were raised. Specifically, Sellon is accused of bullying his subordinates, a characterization he adamantly denies.

However, Dumas considered the allegations serious enough that he hired a private investigator to review Sellon’s management of the police department. (The tab for the investigation is about $13,000 and will climb once the agency has completed its review.) If there was credible evidence that the chief shouldn’t be managing employees, and Dumas thought there was, the public should know that steps are being taken to ensure confidence in their police department.

Keeping the public in the dark also led to speculation over the reason for Sellon’s absence. Was this a criminal or corruption matter? Did it involve a medical or mental health issue? It was unfair to both the public and to Sellon to create this speculation.

Mansfield taxpayers were also paying about $7,300 a week or more than $1,000 a day for the position of police chief — partly to Sellon and partly to Deputy Police Chief Michael Ellsworth, who has assumed command of the department. That extra money could have been better spent elsewhere.

Finally, the state’s Supervisor of Public Records has indicated that the public has every right to the documents that have been turned over after The Sun Chronicle’s appeal. Future denials are likely to be overturned by the state; the public will eventually know the details of this case.

We understand that personnel matters are never easy to resolve. But when the charges are serious and it results in a key municipal official being taken off the job, the community should know about it.

The public’s business should not be kept a secret.