Protestors Call For Resignations For Several McCurtain Co. Officials After Audio Clips Released

A large crowd gathered for a peaceful protest at the McCurtain County commissioners’ meeting Monday morning. They’re calling for the resignation of several county officials following the release of audio clips containing discussions of violence and racism.

Monday, April 17th 2023, 5:14 pm



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A large crowd gathered for a peaceful protest at the McCurtain County commissioners’ meeting Monday morning. 

Related: McCurtain Co. Commission Convenes Emergency Meeting; Protestors Gather Outside

They’re calling for the resignation of several county officials following the release of audio clips allegedly containing discussions of violence and racism.

“It’s very shameful for what they had to say and how they delivered themselves,” James Green of Broken Bow said. “Our county deserves better.”

Green was among the group protesting and demanding change within their county government.

“We want their resignations,” protester Vonda Cole of Idabel said. “They need to fire everybody in that courthouse and just start over.”

The officials including Commissioner Mark Jennings and Sheriff Kevin Clardy are among several others under fire after the release of audio clips recorded by Bruce Willingham, publisher of the McCurtain Gazette newspaper. 

He left his recording device behind after the March 6 County Commissioners’ meeting had ended to prove they were violating open meeting laws by having secret meetings.

“There was one part that was risky, I had to get the device picked back up,” Willingham said.

The legal recordings did more than prove his hunch.

“I was expecting chitter chatter about county business stuff, and that’s how it started, and then it got down to the extremely serious stuff,” he said.

Willingham said he heard discussions about beating, killing and burying him and his son, fellow reporter Chris Willingham.

Jennings: I’ve known, I’ve known two or three hit men, they're very quiet guys…
Manning: Yeah?
Jennings: And would cut no f****** mercy. 
Manning: Yeah.
Jennings: In Louisiana. Cause this is all Mafia around here.
Kevin: Oh yeah
Manning: Yeah, but here’s the reality. If a hair on his wife’s head, Chris Willingham’s head, or any of those people that really were behind that, if any hair on their head got touched by anybody, who would be the bad guy? 
Manning: They are insignificant in my life, really. They bring no (indistinguishable)
Sheriff: The old saying is, what goes around goes around. It will. I told you it will. 
Jennings: I know where two big deep holes are here if you ever need them. 
Sheriff: I’ve got an excavator.
Jennings: Well, these are already pre-dug. 
“I was really appalled and frightened quite frankly,” Willingham said.
The audio recordings also included jokes about a woman who died in a fire.
Jennings: Oh, body parts? She’d come apart?
Sheriff: Yeah. Some parts of bodies. And…
Heather: They really fall apart when they’re burnt?
Larry: Yeah. You never had barbecue?
Sheriff: That’s another thing.
Heather: Yeah?
Larry: Same thing. 
Beck: I’m hungry. 
Sheriff: So we get her in the body bag and Kyler goes, you do know what we gotta do now, right? Faith goes, no, what? He goes, you gotta preheat the oven 350 degrees, leave her in there for 15 minutes. And she went (vomit sounds) (laughter). Bless her heart. It was… and then the medical examiner asked her, said hey we're fixing to go eat. And he looked her in the face and said you wanna go with me and go eat barbecue? (big laughter) 

The audio even revealed racism in the county government.

Jennings: If it was back in the day, when that when Alan Marshton would take a damn Black guy and whoop their a** and throw him in the cell? I’d run for f*** sheriff. 
Sheriff: Yeah. Well, It’s not like that no more.
Jennings: I know. Take them down to Mud Creek and hang them up with a damn rope. But you can’t do that anymore. They got more rights than we got. 

“I feel like we don’t even have anybody to protect us, we felt like we had someone to protect us, but we’re out here on our own,” protester Debra Howell said.

During the meeting, commissioners made no action on any item on the agenda. Jennings and Clardy were not present. 

Idabel Mayor Craig Young spoke asking for the resignations, but again no action. 

On Sunday, even Governor Kevin Stitt called for the resignations of those involved.

Willingham said more audio files will be released in the coming days. Meanwhile, the full audio has been turned over to the FBI and the attorney general’s office.

Related: FBI Investigating Alleged Death Threats Made By County Officials Against Oklahoma Newspaper Reporters

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