McCurtain County in far southeast Oklahoma receives so many inhabitants from northern Texas who cross the border there each week that the region has come to be known as the “Dallas-Fort Worth Hamptons.”
These Ouchita Mountains’ forested foothills, with their crystal-clear rivers and lakes, are now peppered with opulent cottages, and a tourism boom in the last two decades has sparked a revival in the area.
Parents are more confident that their children won’t need to leave the community in order to find work because jobs are no longer restricted to the wood industry or the chicken processing factory.
However, last week’s revelation by a local newspaper that numerous county leaders, including Sheriff Kevin Clardy and a county commissioner, had been overheard discussing the murder of journalists and the lynching of Black people dealt a fatal blow to the county’s burgeoning optimism for the future.
One commissioner has already resigned, and elected officials have called for the other commissioners to do the same, including Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt and the mayor of Idabel.
Lonnie Watson, a Black teacher and coach who has lived in the county his entire life, stated, “Just hearing it on audio and coming from our elected officials’ mouths in a meeting made my stomach turn.” “It shocked me. It was gloomy. It caused pain. It was heartbreaking merely to hear the hate.
Since the McCurtain Gazette-News reported the news last Saturday, the sheriff’s office has only made one official statement, in which it refused to comment on the remarks but claimed the recording had been obtained unlawfully.
Undersheriff Mike Manning told The Associated Press on Thursday that, “unfortunately, all of our attorneys are telling us we are supposed to stay quiet.” Manning chose not to make any other comments.
I sincerely hope that everyone gets to hear both sides of the tale.On Friday, the governor made public a letter he sent to the state’s attorney general, Gentner Drummond, requesting that he look into the possibility of removing Clardy from office for deliberate wrongdoing. The governor has called for Clardy and other others who were allegedly part in the recorded conversation to resign.
According to the letter signed by Stitt, “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.” “I urge you to start proceedings to remove Sheriff Clardy from office,” the letter reads. “Should you find that there is reasonable cause for such complaint.”
According to a Drummond spokeswoman, the situation is already under investigation.
“The Office of the Attorney General is looking into this. According to Phil Bacharach, a spokesperson for Attorney General Drummond, the attorney general will evaluate the governor’s letter and take the necessary steps.
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