McCURTAIN COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – McCurtain County District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings has resigned after allegedly being caught on a recording discussing the murder of journalists and lynching Black Oklahomans with members of the McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office.
The controversy began over the weekend when the McCurtain Gazette-News reported District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings, Investigator Alicia Manning, Jail Administrator Larry Hendrix and Sheriff Kevin Clardy were recorded during a conversation on March 6 at a meeting of the county Board of Commissioners.
In the recording, the officials can be heard discussing potentially killing a journalist and the hanging of Black Oklahomans, almost reminiscing on archaic and racist punishments.
Transcripts from the audio:
“If this was back in the day when Alan Marston would take a damned Black guy and whoop their ass and throw them in the cell, I would run for f**** sheriff,” said Jennings, according to the Gazette.
“It’s not like that no more,” responded Clardy.
“I know – take em down on Mud Creek and hang em up on a damn rope, but you can’t do that no more. They got more rights than we got,” concluded Jennings.
Graphic Language Warning: Link to transcripts from the audio recording provided by Bruce Willingham’s attorney.
The McCurtain Sheriff’s Office maintains that the newspaper’s audio recording was altered and illegally obtained.
Sunday evening, Governor Kevin Stitt weighed in.
Stitt said he was “both appalled and disheartened to hear the horrid comments,” and called for the officials to resign.
He is calling on OSBI to investigate the situation.
Additional lawmakers have also called for Sheriff Kevin Clardy to resign. The NAACP is asking that the FBI and The Department of Justice investigate.
A protest by McCurtain County residents on Monday called for the resignations of all involved.
On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association suspended Sheriff Kevin Clardy, Investigator Alicia Manning and Trust Administrator Larry Hendrix from its organization.
Now, District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings has officially submitted his resignation.
Gov. Stitt accepted his resignation Wednesday.
Sen. George Burns, R-Pollard, issued a statement following the resignation of McCurtain County Commissioner Mark Jennings.
After I heard about what happened and listened to the audio recording, I personally spoke with both Mark Jennings and Sheriff Kevin Clardy, and told them they needed to resign immediately, and I told the sheriff his staff members who were involved also needed to step down.
I’ve withheld comment as I gathered additional information and held those conversations with the commissioner and the sheriff. While Mark Jennings has now resigned, I continue to call on Sheriff Clardy, Investigator Alicia Manning, and Jail Administrator Larry Hendrix to do the right thing and submit their resignations as well.
I live in McCurtain County, and I want to state emphatically that these horrible comments do not represent the heart and spirit of our citizens. It’s hurt the county, and our state. Innocent people are being impacted. When the words of public servants are so vile that they’re hurting the people they serve, they should no longer hold those positions.
Jennings has not released a public statement since the story broke.