McCurtain Co. Officials Suspended From Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association After Audio Clips Released

Several McCurtain County officials have been suspended from the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association after audio clips of alleged threats were released.

Tuesday, April 18th 2023, 5:16 pm

By: News 9, News On 6, Anjelicia Bruton


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Several McCurtain County officials have been suspended from the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association after audio clips of alleged threats were released.

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

In a statement released to News 9, the Oklahoma Sheriffs' Association said at an emergency meeting Tuesday morning that Sheriff Kevin Clardy, Investigator Alicia Manning and Trust Administrator Larry Hendrix were unanimously voted to be suspended from the association.

The statement also included a OSA bylaw that states “A member may be suspended for good and sufficient cause by the Board of Directors at its regular monthly Board Meeting by a majority vote of those present constituting a quorum. The member may appeal in writing the suspension within sixty (60) days after notice to the OSA Board of Directors of the Corporation for a final decision by a majority vote of those present constituting a quorum."

This comes days after audio clips were released where the officials allegedly had discussions containing violence and racism.

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. 

The audio clips were recorded by Bruce Willingham, publisher of the McCurtain Gazette, after a March 6 county commissioners' meeting.

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

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

However, the McCurtain County Sheriff's Office released a statement in response to the release of the recordings that claims that the audio may have been altered and was illegally obtained.

The sheriff's office said the audio does not match the “transcription."

He also said this is a violation of an Oklahoma law that said it's illegal to secretly record a conversation in which you are not involved without the consent of at least one party.

“It was still a legal meeting as long as the commissioners were there talking about county business when they left i had to get the device,” Willingham said.

Related: Audio Altered, Illegally Obtained McCurtain Co. Sheriff Claims

Idabel Mayor Craig Young and Governor Kevin Stitt both called for the officials to resign.

Related: Gov. Stitt Calls For McCurtain County Officials To Resign

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.

Ed Blau who is not associated with the case agrees the records are legal.

“There were multiple public officials sitting in this public space having a conversation. The sheriff is not going to be able to make a case for illegal wiring taping or improper recording based on those facts,” Blau said.

Several agencies are investigating this. Blau said although it may be offensive it's unclear if a crime was committed. As for resignations, the governor can only make a recommendation.

“The governor itself doesn’t have the power to remove a sitting sheriff. However, the attorney general through the use of a multi county grand jury can remove a sheriff,” Blau said.

All three have 60 days to appeal the decision. As of Tuesday, the county commissioners have not resigned.

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