Residents attending a county commissioners’ meeting on Monday demanded accountability not only from local officials but also state officials who have ignored five years’ of requests for assistance to probe the sheriff’s office.
Jim Green drew strong applause after he said, “I’m here to tell you, we need to be contacting Sen. Burns and Rep. Dempsey. The state of Oklahoma has a transparency problem. The OSBI and the state attorneys general of the past, we need to ask questions to our state government: Why? We’re not step-children down here in McCurtain County, we’re not.
“We have to have higher expectations, a lot higher expectation than we’re receiving…This county needs follow-up. We don’t want just the sheriff to be removed and everything washed away. We want to know what happened during that five-year period of time. When we could have solved the problem. That’s what we need and that’s what we desire.”
Green was referring to District Attorney Mark Matloff’s having contacted the Oklahoma attorney general’s office several times over five years seeking help with the sheriff’s office. Yet it wasn’t until the eyes of the entire nation were on McCurtain County that the office got serious about it.
Last week, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond called for an expanded OSBI probe into the actions of McCurtain County officials, yet there’s been no explanation for the five years of inaction by that office, despite repeated requests for its help.
Neither has the office apologized for its lack of response.
Others speaking Monday at the commissioners’ meeting chided the recent actions of the McCurtain County Jail Trust, which put jail administrator Larry Hendrix on administrative leave despite many calls for his termination.
“Y’all had the power to fire Hendrix, but you put him on leave, on our tax dollars,” said Antoinette Lewis. “Y’all already proved to us that you weren’t doing the right thing…
She said the people prayed, pleaded and urged Hendrix’ termination, but it didn’t happen.
“I really felt like that was a slap in the face,” she said. “I really wanted to cry that day, and I still do.”
The only jail trust member who is also a county commissioner is John Williams, head of the commissioners’ board.
Several other speakers talked about love.
Pastor Jimmie Williams said in some households, parents teach kids to love each other, but in others, some parents are still teaching hate.
Steve Blankenship said people have love and forgiveness in their hearts, but they also seek justice when justice is required.