The governor’s office reports that an Oklahoma county commissioner, who was secretly taped allegedly talking about killing journalists and lynching Black Residents following a public meeting, has resigned.
McCurtain county commissioner Mark Jennings handed a resignation letter written by hand to Oklahoma Governor. Kevin Stitt resigned two days after Governor Tom Coburn called for it. The governor also asked for the resignations from Sheriff Kevin Clardy, two other employees of the sheriff’s office and two others. Stitt confirmed.
Jennings wrote in a white-lined notepad: “I, Mark Jennings, hereby resign from my position as McCurtain County district #2 commissioner, effective immediately.” I will issue a formal announcement in the near-future regarding the recent incidents in our county.
OSBI spokesman Gerald Davidson confirmed Wednesday that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation had launched an investigation at Stitt’s request.
According to the newspaper, Jennings was the one who made the remarks on lynching in the recording made by McCurtain County Gazette News reporter Bruce Willingham on March 6.
Jennings recalled that a former sheriff would “take a damned Black man and whoop his ass and throw him in the cell.”
Clardy’s response to the newspaper’s description of the recording appears to be “Yes,” Clardy seems to have responded. “It’s no longer like that.”
Jennings allegedly replied, “I know.” Take them to Mud Creek, and hang them with a damned cord. You can’t do it anymore. “They have more rights than us.”
Jennings is 59 years old and lives in Idabel. He could not be reached for a comment immediately. He appeared to have turned off his cell phone, and he did not reply to emails.
Clardy, Alicia Manning, and Larry Hendrix (the jail administrator) have not returned repeated requests for an interview since the McCurtain Gazette-News article about the secret recording of the tape broke on the weekend.
No one has spoken out publicly about the scandal that is engulfing this county. The sheriff’s department claimed on Monday that the recording was “illegally acquired,” seemed to have been changed and may have broken a state statute prohibiting secret recordings made by third parties.
Christin Jones of the Kilpatrick Townsend law firm, which represents this newspaper, said that the recording was not tampered with, and that Bruce Willingham, the reporter whose family owns the newspaper since 40 years, had not broken the law by making it.
Jones stated by email that the recording was accurate and did not violate Oklahoma Security of Communications Act. The full audio will be released Thursday.
The law firm said that the entire recording had already been handed over to the FBI, as well as the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office.
The Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association has suspended the three from the organization. This does not affect their employment with the sheriff department.