The NBC10 Boston Investigators uncovered a new clue about the mystery surrounding Mansfield's police chief: the town has hired a private firm to investigate.
As we reported last month, Mansfield Police Chief Ron Sellon has been on paid administrative leave since October.
However, town leaders did not disclose that development to residents until we started asking questions.
Despite the rumor mill running wild in the community, town officials have remained tight-lipped about why the top cop remains off the job, calling it a private personnel matter.
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Ed Resnick, a resident of 15 years, reached out to us after seeing our story last month.
"I've been very disappointed in the town's response," Resnick said. "The lack of information and really treating the taxpayers as if it's not our right to know what's happened with the police chief."
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A document obtained via public records request sheds a little more light on the situation: an agreement with the private investigative firm, Matthews & Matthews, LLC.
"Matthews & Matthews has experience in conducting confidential investigations of this nature," the document reads. "The Company will conduct its investigation and provide to you a written report setting forth the factual information obtained upon its conclusion."
The document, which doesn't reveal the focus of the probe, lists billing rates of $175 for one investigator and $300 per hour for two investigators.
We've asked how much the investigation has cost taxpayers, along with whether any reports have been produced, and are waiting to hear back.
The Town of Hingham hired the same firm to investigate double-dipping allegations against its town engineer following an NBC10 Boston investigation in 2019.
We've also learned that Deputy Chief Michael Ellsworth of the Mansfield Police Department took on the acting chief role on June 15, 2021, nearly a year ago.
Payroll records show Sellon used a combination of sick and personal time prior to being placed on paid administrative leave in late October.
As part of the acting chief role, Ellsworth got a bump in pay of $47,000. At the same time, Sellon has continued to receive his $196,000 salary while on paid leave.
That means Mansfield residents are shelling out a rate of about $388,000 for two police chief positions.
Mary Connaughton, the director of transparency at the Pioneer Institute, told us the situation should have been disclosed to taxpayers months ago.
"The public has a right to know who their chief public safety officer is in the town," Connaughton said. "It's just really remarkable that it was kept in the dark. Why the secrecy?"
When we reached out to Sellon about the private firm's investigation, the police chief sent us a written statement:
"I welcome a prompt and professional review of this circumstance and, if one is conducted and the process stripped of politics and gamesmanship, I am confident that I will resume my post," the statement read. "I am proud of my service to the Town of Mansfield and looking forward to continuing to serve the public as Chief."
Sellon's three-year contract is up on March 31, 2023.
Resnick asked us to keep digging for answers as the mystery unfolds.
"It's starting to feel like a little bit of Washington has come to Mansfield and there’s a secret cabal running our town," he said. "It's not a good feeling as a citizen."
Ryan Kath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.