SAO PAULO – Criminal charges are being sought against 16 people in connection with the nightclub fire that killed 241 people in southern Brazil earlier this year, police said Friday.

Inspector Marcelo Arigony told a news conference that the mayor and fire chief of Santa Maria, the city where the fire occurred, could also be held responsible for the accident because of the negligent safety inspections of the nightclub.

But he said that because Mayor Cezar Schirmer is an elected official, the police cannot file charges against him and only the Rio Grande do Sul State Supreme Court and the city’s legislature can determine if he is charged. Only a military court can charge the fire chief, because the department is under the control of the police, which is part of the military.

The fire roared through the crowded, windowless Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria on Jan. 27, filling the air with flames and thick, toxic smoke.

Arigony said the band performing at the club lit a flare, which ignited flammable soundproofing foam on the ceiling.

The inspector said police are seeking murder charges against the nightclub’s two owners, their manager, and three band members, among others.

The lesser charge of manslaughter is being sought against several city officials for granting the club an operating permit “when it was obvious that minimum safety and fire prevention measures were not in place,” Arigony said.