McCurtain County Commissioner Mark Jennings, one of the four allegedly caught on tape discussing killing local reporters and lynching Black people, has resigned.
The Oklahoma Governor’s Office confirmed Wednesday morning that it had received a handwritten resignation letter from Jennings.
“Effective immediately, I, Mark Jennings do hereby resign as McCurtain County District #2 commissioner. I will release a formal statement in the near future regarding the recent events in our county,” Jennings wrote in the letter.
On Monday, Governor Stitt called for the immediate resignation of Jennings along with McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, investigator Alicia Manning and jail administrator Larry Hendrix after the “horrid” audio recordings from a Mar. 6, 2023 commissioners meeting were released by the McCurtain Gazette News.
On Tuesday, the McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office released a statement regarding the audio recordings, claiming the audio has been altered.
“Many of these recordings, like the one published by media outlets on Friday, have yet to be duly authenticated or validated. Our preliminary information indicates that the media released audio recording has, in fact, been altered. The motivation for doing so remains unclear at this point,” said the sheriff’s office in a statement released on social media.
Click here to read the full transcript of the recording. ( Reader discretion advised – audio and transcript contain talk of killing journalists and racism, incl. hanging Black people.)
The sheriff’s office also stated that there is an ongoing investigation into multiple violations relating to secretly recording a the conversation.
“There is and has been an ongoing investigation into multiple, significant violation of the Oklahoma Security of Communications Act, Title 13, Chapters 176.3 and 176.4 which states that it is illegal to secretly record a conversation in which you are not involved and do not have the consent of at least one of the involved parties. There is a significant number of victims of this criminal activity and it has taken significant effort and time to identify them and corroborate evidence.”
Bruce Willingham, the longtime publisher of the McCurtain Gazette News, told media that he left a voice-activated recorder inside the room after a county commissioner’s meeting because he suspected the group was continuing to conduct county business after the meeting had ended in violation of the state’s Open Meeting Act.