ATLANTIC CITY - Last week, Mayor Lorenzo Langford halted an administrative investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct at a city fire station at the request of the county prosecutor. On Tuesday, he started it up again.
Police Chief John J. Mooney and Fire Chief Dennis Brooks confirmed that Langford summoned them to his office Tuesday morning seeking their cooperation in a government probe of at least four on-duty firefighters accused of inappropriate contact with females as young as 16.
"We're definitely going to do an internal investigation. We've been ordered to start that," Fire Chief Dennis Brooks said Tuesday.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford intended to issue a statement last week about his investigation before receiving a warning from Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel that releasing information could jeopardize the law enforcement investigation.
Langford complied with Housel's request, but said he would not rule out restarting the investigation if law enforcement did not show progress soon. The administration's investigation is designed to determine whether the sexual allegations at the fire station are true and why the law enforcement response has been so slow, officials said previously.
Housel declined comment Tuesday. Langford could not be reached for comment.
Mooney, who has argued that an administrative investigation starts after a criminal investigation, said he told the mayor his office would not participate in the probe, based on proper procedures and the advice of the prosecutor. The chief said City Solicitor Robert Tarver is reportedly reviewing that advice.
City attorney Yolanda Laney, who is reportedly heading the city's investigation, initially visited Mooney's office two weeks ago and requested investigative information and permission to speak with police personnel. Mooney referred her to Housel.
The Mayor's Office also requested documents from the fire chief, but Brooks said the Solicitor's Office retracted that request before it was fulfilled.
Complaints have grown about the pace of the police and county investigation. The incident is alleged to have occurred more than three months ago. The prosecutor is expected to release a report on the investigation this week.
Also on Tuesday, the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders joined in the call for a state investigation into the alleged misconduct. The freeholders voted unanimously to support City Council's previous request for the state Attorney General's Office to investigate what might have happened at Fire Station 2, located at Indiana and Baltic avenues.
The freeholders state in their resolution that City Council asked for the state investigation because of "the lack of public response" by Atlantic City's police and fire departments and the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office.
The freeholder board rarely imposes its opinion on local governments in Atlantic County.
"This investigation has been going on since May," Freeholder Charles Garrett, whose freeholder district represents Atlantic City, said of any local investigations into the alleged incident. "Here we are in September. It doesn't take that long."
Staff writer Thomas Barlas contributed to this report.
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