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Voters oust McCurtain County sheriff after investigations, national attention

McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy
Posted at 1:31 PM, Jun 19, 2024

MCCURTAIN COUNTY — Voters in McCurtain County decided not to reelect Sheriff Kevin Clardy a little over a year after an audio recording scandal sparked nationwide outrage.

Out of three candidates in the primary race, Clardy got the least votes.

In a county commissioners' meeting in March 2023, a reporter for the McCurtain Gazette News recorded Clardy, former jail administrator Larry Hendrix, former county commissioner Mark Jennings, and investigator Alicia Manning allegedly making racist and threatening comments.

They allegedly talked about killing the reporter and his dad, made fun of a fire victim, and discussed lynching.

Hear parts of the recordings from that meeting:

Time Line of McCurtain County Events

These comments sparked protests in the county. Governor Kevin Stitt called the comments abhorrent and said the officials should resign.

"I am both appalled and disheartened to hear of the horrid comments made by officials in McCurtain County. There is simply no place for such hateful rhetoric in the state of Oklahoma, especially by those that serve to represent the community through their respective office. I will not stand idly by while this takes place.

In light of these events, I am calling for the immediate resignation of McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings, Investigator Alicia Manning, and Jail Administrator Larry Hendrix."

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said he would investigate the officials but later said there was no evidence of them breaking any laws. In a press release, Drummond said it was up to voters to decide on the official's fate.

2 News talked with McCurtain Gazette reporter Chris Willingham after Drummond's statement:

What's Next for McCurtain Gazette

Since then, jail administrator Larry Hendrix was fired — only to be rehired minutes later as a deputy for the McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office, according to sources close to the situation in McCurtain County.

County Commissioner Mark Jennings resigned and it's unclear if Alicia Manning still works for the sheriff's office.

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