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Oklahoma Gov. Stitt's office considering sheriff impeachment, calls for investigation

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt shakes hands after delivering his State of the State address on Feb. 6, 2023.
Abi Ruth Martin
The Oklahoma Legislative Service Bureau
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt shakes hands after delivering his State of the State address on Feb. 6, 2023.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt says his office is looking to remove McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy.

Clardy and three other county officials were allegedly recorded at a meeting making racist and violent remarks about journalists and Black people. Stitt called for the four to immediately resign after hearing about the alleged remarks on Sunday.

McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy
McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy

At a news conference Friday, Stitt confirmed his office is “looking at all legal avenues” for impeachment. But he said Clardy should take the first step before the governor’s office has to intervene.

"This guy needs to do the right thing, and he needs to step down, because he's only hurting himself, and he's only hurting Oklahoma, and I don't think he can be effective at this point," he said.

Stitt also wrote a letter to Attorney General Gentner Dummond on Friday, calling for an immediate investigation in the complaints of misconduct by Clardy.

"As I understand it, Sheriff Clardy has, at the least, willfully failed or neglected to diligently and faithfully "keep and preserve the peace" of McCurtain County, which is a duty enjoined upon him by 19 O.S. § 516(A)," Stitt wrote.

Phil Bacharach, a spokesperson for the Attorney General's office, confirmed to The Associated Press early last week that the agency received an audio recording and is investigating the incident.

Last Monday, the sheriff’s office responded to Stitt’s and others’ calls for resignation in a statement claiming the recordings were obtained illegally and were altered. The following day, Idabel mayor Craig Young called the sheriff’s statement "a joke."

On Wednesday, former county commissioner Mark Jennings resigned from his office. In one of the recordings, Jennings allegedly told Clardy he would run for sheriff if police could still lynch Black people.

Clardy, Jennings, sheriff's Capt. Alicia Manning and jail administrator Larry Hendrix were also allegedly recorded discussing plans to kill journalists at the McCurtain Gazette-News following investigative reports. A Gazette-News reporter captured the alleged remarks by leaving his recorder in a meeting room because he suspected Open Meeting Act violations.

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS.
Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
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