ATLANTIC CITY - Officials with the Langford administration acknowledged conducting its own investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct at a city firehouse - until they were ordered to stop Monday by the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford intended to issue a statement Monday afternoon regarding his findings before receiving a warning from Prosecutor Ted Housel that releasing information could jeopardize the law enforcement investigation.
Langford spokesman Kevin Hall said the city's business administrator and head solicitor have led a fact-finding effort to determine whether the sexual allegations at the fire station are true and why the law enforcement response has been so slow.
"We had to cease our investigation," Hall said Monday. "(Housel) had some concerns that any additional investigation would taint their investigation."
Allegations of an incident involving inappropriate sexual conduct in a city fire station with females as young as 16 began surfacing in July. Mayor Lorenzo Langford and resort Fire Chief Dennis Brooks have separately confirmed there is an investigation, but neither has provided details. The Press of Atlantic City has decided not to name the men, because no charges have been filed.
Langford's spokesman said the mayor initiated the probe to be prepared to answer questions "about the foot-dragging, or the alleged foot-dragging." Since then he has requested information from the Police Department, Fire Department and others.
"The mayor has a lot of information - some of it official, some of it not official," Hall said. "We can't confirm anything right now. The official information needs to be in his hand."
Hall said the administration will likely release a statement about their findings today after making some modifications based on discussions with Housel.
Reached by phone Monday, Housel declined comment.
Police Chief John J. Mooney said city attorney Yolanda Laney visited his office last week and requested investigative information and permission to speak with police personnel. Mooney referred her to Housel.
"I believe she wanted carte blanche," Mooney said. "She wanted access to all of our information, including people identified as potential witnesses."
Mooney said normally an administrative investigation follows a criminal investigation.
"Unfortunately, the pace of the investigation has dissatisfied some people at City Hall," he said. "Again, this is not a situation where we can set a stopwatch. ... I think when all is said and done the claims of a cover-up or that feet were being dragged will be refuted."
Fire Chief Dennis Brooks said the mayor requested documents late last week, but before he could respond the Solicitor's Office intervened.
"They told me to hold off because there was a criminal investigation going on," Brooks said. He declined to discuss what records were requested and referred all other questions to Solicitor Robert Tarver.
"The mayor has been chomping at the bit to discuss this," Hall said. "We've been inundated with phone calls from people. There's concern out there that there is some foot-dragging and even the possibility of a cover-up. We want people to know that that is not the case on our end."
Staff writer Lynda Cohen contributed to this report.
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