OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Eddy Dempsey, R-Valliant, released the following statement after a town hall meeting in McCurtain County.
“First and foremost, I want to express my frustration and disappointment with the comments made by McCurtain County elected officials captured on audio recording earlier this year. The hatred and intolerance expressed in those comments is appalling and does not reflect the values of McCurtain County or its people. No one is above the law, and every single person, regardless of their background, position or race, should be treated equally in every situation.
“On June 5, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond contacted Idabel Mayor Craig Young to discuss the ongoing investigation. Attorney General Drummond expressed that he does not have the constitutional power to unilaterally remove any person from a county office or terminate the employment of a county employee. However, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is diligently investigating whether any crimes were committed and, depending on the final outcome of any charges, there could be grounds for termination or removal from office.
“In any investigation, it is necessary to determine the facts of the case and thoroughly examine them before moving forward, a process which takes time. I fully support OSBI’s hard work on this case and encourage everybody to cooperate with their investigation as we attempt to remedy any wrongdoing and grow as a community.”
Dempsey, a Republican, is in his second term representing House District 1. His district includes McCurtain County and southern LeFlore County.
Dempsey’s office provided a copy of the letter from Drummond to Mayor Craig Young that Dempsey referred to.
That letter is as follows.
Thank you for your letter of May 26, 2023, which was emailed to me by Diane Johnson.
I understand your frustration with the decisions by Kevin Clardy to continue serving as McCurtain County Sheriff, Alicia Manning to continue serving as a captain in the McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office, Larry Hendrix to continue serving as McCurtain County’s jail administrator, and Robert Beck to continue serving as a county commissioner for McCurtain County.
While my office can play a role in prosecuting criminal charges, or in a removal or ouster proceeding, I do not have the power to unilaterally remove any person from a county office or terminate the employment of a county employee.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) is diligently investigating both whether any crimes were committed, and whether there are grounds for removal under 22 O.S. § 1181 (as I directed on May 4, 2023) or ouster under 51 O.S. § 93 (as the governor directed on April 17, 2023, and April 21, 2023). Skilled prosecutors in my criminal section are providing guidance to OSBI agents as they investigate.
As I am sure you understand, it is extremely important that OSBI thoroughly investigate the facts before moving forward to ensure a successful prosecution or removal/ouster proceeding, if the investigation reveals admissible evidence to prove illegal conduct or the commission of acts that provide grounds for removal or ouster under Oklahoma law. My office and I fully support OSBI’s careful work.
Finally, you referred to a May 22, 2023, call with First Assistant Attorney General Amie Ely and Deputy Attorney General Dane Towery. I understand from them that this 37-minute call was instead on May 8, 2023. During this call, they encouraged you to provide any information that would be relevant for either potential criminal charges or removal/ouster to the assigned OSBI special agent and provided you with that agent’s cellphone number and email address. They also encouraged you to ask any other potential witnesses to either criminal activity or activity that might provide grounds for removal or ouster to contact that agent. I trust you have spoken with the agent and provided any information you have, including the names and contact information for any potential witnesses. Finally, Mr. Towery discussed with you 22 O.S. § 1194, with which he is quite familiar. I also understand that Ms. Ely directed you to 22 O.S. § 1181 and that Mr. Towery also explained the potential removal process to you. Therefore, your statement that my staff was “unfamiliar with the Statue” [sic] is incorrect.
I join my staff in encouraging you to provide any information you have to the OSBI agent assigned to this case. The Rule of Law that governs us all appropriately limits my discretion to bring criminal charges or seek the removal of individuals from office unless admissible evidence exists that clearly establishes a statute has been violated. Encouraging any potential witnesses to come forward should be a priority for your office, just as it is for my office and the OSBI, as that is the only way to ensure that justice is truly done.
GENTNER F. DRUMMOND
Oklahoma Attorney General