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City leaders unsure about releasing info in botched WPD sting

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- There are still a lot of questions about who did what during a Wilmington Police prostitution sting last year that led to changes in the department yesterday.

There could be more answers if Wilmington's top cop would ask a question of city council. As we look for answers, there's one big question for city leaders: is the integrity of the police department at stake?

"It was a big hit," Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said during a news conference yesterday.

Today, Wilmington Mayor Pro Tem Earl Sheridan said, "It certainly is an embarrassment for the department."

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo agreed. "Yes, this could defiantly affect the department's integrity," he said.

State law allows an agency to release normally private information if it helps maintain the integrity of the agency. Yesterday Evangelous said he would have to ask city council for permission. Today we tried to find out if council would give him the power.

"If I thought it was to the benefit to people to know that and that kind of thing, I would probably make that decision in the affirmative," Sheridan said.

Mayor Saffo says he would have to speak with the chief and the city attorney before deciding how he'd vote.He hopes to have that conversation soon. "I would say probably in the next 48 hours," Saffo said, adding that there could be a decision by next week.

The demotion and suspension of three officers involved in the sting last March could affect the District Attorney's Office. DA Ben David said cases involving the officers will be continued. David said he will do whatever he needs to make sure the integrity of the criminal justice system is protected. He said he wants to review all the facts of the police department's internal review before making any judgements.

We reached out to every member of City Council today. Councilman Neil Anderson did not want to comment, because he said all he knew about what happened, he'd read in the paper. Councilman Kevin O'Grady said he only knew what Chief Evangelous had released in a statement yesterday. Council members Margaret Haynes, Laura Padgett and Charlie Rivenbark have not returned our calls. We also asked yesterday to speak with City Manager Sterling Cheatham. He also has not responded.

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