(CNN) Oklahoma’s governor has called for the resignation of four McCurtain County officials after the release of a secret audio recording of them allegedly making racist comments about killing black people and killing journalists.
The McCurtain Gazette-News released audio over the weekend that it said was recorded after a March 6 board of commissioners meeting.
The paper said the audio of the meeting was obtained legally, but by the McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office Report It has been illegally recorded and is being investigated. The sheriff’s office also said it believes the record was altered.
“I am appalled and dismayed by the cruel comments made by officials in McCurtain County,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a statement Sunday. “Such hateful rhetoric has no place in the state of Oklahoma, especially by those who represent the community through their respective offices. I will not be idle until this happens,” the statement read.
The governor called for the immediate resignation of McCurdine County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings, Sheriff’s Investigator Alicia Manning and Jail Administrator Larry Hendricks. He also said he will ask the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to investigate the case.
About 200 miles from Oklahoma City is McCurtain County in southeastern Oklahoma.
The recording came hours after Gazette-News reporter Chris Willingham filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office, Manning and the Board of County Commissioners, alleging they defamed him and violated his civil rights, the newspaper reported.
In the recording, Manning spoke of wanting to move closer to the newspaper’s office and expressed concern about what would happen if he ran into Willingham. The Oklahoman quoting an additional report from the Gazette-News, reported.
According to the Oklahoman report, Jennings said, “Oh, you’re talking about not being able to control yourself?” To which Manning replied: “Yeah, I don’t care what he’s going to do to me. I’m worried what I’m going to do to him. My dad would have knocked his a** off and wiped him and used him. Toilet paper… if my dad hadn’t been run over by a car.” , he would have been down.”
Jennings responded that his father had once been upset by something the newspaper had published and “went down there and started killing him,” according to the Gazette-News.
“I know there are two big, deep holes here if you ever need them,” Jennings said. Clardy, the sheriff, is said to have the equipment.
“I have a dig,” Clardy is accused of saying during the debate. “Well, these are already dug up,” Jennings said.
Elsewhere in the recording, the newspaper said, officers expressed disappointment that black people could no longer be killed.
CNN could not verify the authenticity of the recording or confirm who said what. CNN has reached out to all four district officials for comment.
State and local agencies are investigating
Willingham and his father, Bruce Willingham, a magazine publisher, have been advised to leave town temporarily. CNN affiliate KJRH reported.
“For nearly a year, they have been threatened, ridiculed and harassed simply for trying to report news for McCurtain County,” Kilpatrick Townsend, the law firm representing the Willingham family, told CNN in a statement.
The McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office said in a Report On Monday, it said it was “under investigation into several significant violations” of the Oklahoma Security of Communications Act, which makes it “unlawful to secretly record a conversation you are not in contact with and without the consent of one of the involved” parties.” It also said the recording had not yet been “formally authorized or verified.”
“Our initial information suggests that the audio recording released by the media has indeed been altered. The motive for doing so is not yet clear. It is being actively investigated,” the statement said.
Communications Director Bill Bacharach said the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office obtained an audio recording and is investigating.
While unable to confirm or deny whether the FBI was involved in the investigation, spokeswoman Kayla McCleary said it was the agency’s policy not to comment.
CNN’s Justin Gamble and Christine Sever contributed to this report