An Oklahoma county commissioner who was on the record about killing reporters and killing black residents has reportedly resigned after a public meeting, according to the governor’s office.
McCurtain County Commissioner Mark Jennings sent a handwritten letter of resignation to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt two days after the governor called for his resignation and that of Sheriff Kevin Clardy and two other sheriff’s department employees, Stitt’s spokesman confirmed.
“Effective immediately, I, Mark Jennings, am resigning as McCurdine County District #2 Commissioner,” Jennings wrote on white lined notebook paper. “I will soon issue a formal report on the recent events in our district.”
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation into the matter at Stitt’s request, agency spokesman Gerald Davidson said Wednesday.
Following Jennings’ resignation, the state Sen. George BurnsIn a statement, R-Pollard, who lives in McCurtain County, urged the commissioner and Clardy to “resign immediately” after listening to the records.
“When public servants’ words are so mean, they hurt the people they serve and they should no longer hold those positions,” Burns said.
According to the newspaper, McCurtain County Gazette-News reporter Bruce Willingham reported on March 6 that Jennings was the one talking about the killers.
When talk turned to who might run for sheriff against Clardy, Jennings recalled how one former sheriff would “pick up a bad black boy and kick his ass.”
“Yes,” Clardy apparently replied, according to the newspaper’s account of the recording. “Not like that anymore.”
“I know,” Jennings said. “Take them to Mud Creek and hang them with a rope. But we can’t do that anymore. They got more rights than we got.
Jennings, 59, could not immediately be reached for comment. He apparently switched off his cell phone and did not respond to emails.
Clardy and two other sheriff’s department employees, Investigator Alicia Manning and Jail Administrator Larry Hendricks, also did not respond to repeated requests for interviews since a McCurdine County Gazette-News story on the secret tape recording was released over the weekend.
No one has spoken publicly about the corruption engulfing the district. On Monday, the sheriff’s office said the recording was “illegally obtained” and appears to have been altered and may have violated a state law prohibiting confidential recordings by third parties.
Christine Jones of Kilpatrick Townsend, the law firm representing the newspaper, insisted that the record had not been tampered with and that Willingham, who has owned the newspaper for 40 years, had not broken the law in producing it.
“This was an accurate recording and did not violate the Oklahoma Security of Communications Act,” Jones said via email. They are planning to release the full audio on Thursday.
The full record has already been turned over to the FBI and the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, the law firm said.
The Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association suspended Clardy, Manning and Hendricks from the organization on Tuesday. The move does not remove them from their jobs at the Sheriff’s Department.