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'It's a joke': Idabel mayor calls out sheriff's statement, doubles down on call for resignation

 Idabel Mayor Craig Young addresses reporters before a McCurtain County commissioners meting on Monday, April 17, 2023, at the county commissioners building.
Courtesy Cristal Joslin
Idabel Mayor Craig Young addresses reporters before a McCurtain County commissioners meting on Monday, April 17, 2023, at the county commissioners building.

Following roughly two days of fallout, Idabel mayor Craig Young called out the McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office for doubling down amid allegations of racism and violent threats.

County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, sheriff's investigator Alicia Manning, jail administrator Larry Hendrix and county commissioner Mark Jennings were allegedly recorded at a March 6 meeting lamenting how lynching Black people was no longer acceptable in law enforcement, discussing killing journalists and comparing a woman who burned to death to barbecue.

On Sunday, Governor Kevin Stitt has called for their immediate resignations, which still could not be confirmed by Tuesday evening.

In a Monday statement, the sheriff’s office claimed the audio was altered and that the recordings violated Oklahoma’s Security of Communications Act.

"There will be continued press releases from this agency as the investigation comes to a close and findings are forwarded to the appropriate authorities for felony charges to be filed on those involved," the statement reads.

When asked about the sheriff's statement, Young didn't mince words.

"It's a joke," Young said. "I think it's terrible. I mean, the damage is done, the trust is gone. Even if the audio recording was illegal, there's still audio recording out there."

Young said he doesn’t know if the recordings were altered, but said the subject matter was horrible.

Young, who is Black, also said he was stunned by Jennings' alleged discussion with Clardy about lynching Black people.

"Mark and I work very close. We had our tornado back in November, and without the help of Mark and his crew, the district, the McCurtain County district, we would have never gotten this stuff done that quick," Young said. "It was very shocking.”

Young’s remarks came just hours after a threat was called in to McCurtain County Community Hospital saying they would detonate a bomb if the officials didn’t resign from their positions and their roles on the hospital board. The hospital had to be evacuated, including airlifting patients to other facilities, Young said.

Young said there has also been a bomb threat at the county courthouse since the recordings surfaced.

"If those guys will resign and be done so that we can start rebuilding here at the county, I think a lot of that s--- will go away," Young said.

Young initially called for the four officials’ resignations before a county commissioners meeting on Monday morning. None of the four officials in question were at the meeting, which drew demonstrators to the meeting room and outside the county commissioners' building.

The recordings first surfaced through an investigative report from The McCurtain Gazette-News after its editor reportedly left a recorder in a public meeting room because he suspected officials were violating the Open Meetings Act.

Officials with the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office confirmed on Monday that they are looking into the situation.

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS.
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