For months there has been an air of inevitability in Oak Bluffs about John Rose’s eventual departure as chief of the town fire and ambulance department, so few were surprised when the news finally broke last Friday. Awash in rumors of sexual misbehavior and under scrutiny by the FBI over ambulance billing practices, the department has been operating under a cloud for far too long.

It should be the dawn of a new era for the embattled firehouse, but so far the selectmen and town administrator have managed to muddle any positive message. A news release announcing the chief’s resignation, effective April 30, left open the glaring question of who is running the show for the next three months. A public meeting Saturday between selectmen and firehouse personnel that might have shed light on the situation was posted quietly, without notice to Island newspapers. Questions about another key resignation in the department went unanswered.

No doubt Oak Bluffs officials have legal concerns about what they should and should not say following the negotiated exit of the fire chief. The news release announcing his resignation referred to a separation agreement that restricted what each party could disclose about the settlement.

But now the focus is on what happens next. Surely the selectmen, who seemed to take an inordinate amount to time to act on what was clearly a troublesome management problem in a key town department, had some plan in mind for what would happen after Chief Rose left.

The irony is that, in remaining so tight lipped about the current situation at the firehouse, town officials are letting old grievances fester and new rumors begin to circulate.

It’s time for a fresh start, both for the public safety professionals at the Oak Bluffs fire and ambulance department who simply want to do what they were trained to do, and for the residents of Oak Bluffs who want to feel secure that someone is fully in charge of a critical town function.

It’s time for town leaders to lead.