Article 1: November 25, 2021
First of a series
By Chris Willingham
For several months, this newspaper has been investigating multiple allegations at the sheriff’s department which were brought forward by former and current department employees.
A few of those things came to a head Tuesday, following an emergency jail trust board meeting.
The sheriff also addressed several rumors that have been spreading among the public and in his own office. One of those was allegations of a sexual relationship between the sheriff and sheriff’s department domestic violence investigator Alicia Manning.
During the emergency meeting, the jail trust board voted unanimously to fire jail secretary Jerre Gail Carrell, who has been employed at the jail for 26 years, sheriff Kevin Clardy said Wednesday.
Following the vote, the board instructed jail administrator Scott McLain to terminate Carrell.
McLain refused and resigned on the spot, as did jail employee Billy Ray Carrell, husband of Jerre Gail and a jail employee of 17 years.
The reason for Carrell’s termination?
“We’re an ‘at-will’ state and there was just cause. There’s been lots of issues. It’s basically for the good of service, that’s what it is,” Clardy, who is also chairman of the jail trust, said.
“And then Billy Ray and Scott re-signed. I trusted Scott McLain with my life. But, there’s things that have been going on and going on for an extended amount of time and I have an obligation to do what’s in the best interest of the county,” Clardy said.
“This is not about friendship; it’s about business and unfortunately through business you lose friends.”
This newspaper also asked about six boxes of evidence from a homicide case that is stored in the former sheriff’s department’s Criminal Investigation Division office, which has reportedly been tainted.
“All our evidence is still secured and locked in our evidence room at the building it’s always been in,” Clardy said.
“There may be six boxes over there, I don’t know, but that’s in our CID office that nobody is supposed to have access to, and a certain individual got access, we don’t know how. I don’t even have access to it.”
This newspaper obtained pictures of the sheriff’s department’s evidence room, which appears to be in complete disarray.
An Open Records Act request for the department’s policies and procedures on handling and storage of evidence was requested by the newspaper and given to undersheriff Larry Hendrix.
In addressing the six boxes of reportedly tainted homicide evidence, Hendrix said, “The evidence that has been recently questioned by the jail is return evidence from the OSBI, and whatever may have been left in the office by (investigators) Devin Black and John Jones.”
“When we began the move, I notified the jail that we were not relinquishing control of the facility,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix said he could make a guess how jail staff got access to the key-code lock door, but however they got access, “it was not appropriate for jail staff to enter the room.”
District Attorney Mark Matloff has also expressed concerns about the evidence from a triple homicide case. The suspect got sentenced to death in Arkansas for two of the murders, so the murder case in Oklahoma has not actually been tried.
Matloff has said, however, that if the death penalty case is later reversed, he would then prosecute the murder here.
This newspaper has inner office sheriff’s department letters, one addressed from undersheriff Hendrix to all employees and another from Manning to all deputies.
Both letters addressed “low morale and backdoor talk.”
“The sheriff has drawn a line and the rumor mill, talking mess and poor attitudes in general will stop,” Hendrix said in a Sept. 3 letter to all employees.
“The sheriff has made me responsible for you. Do not opinion shop or go directly to the sheriff. You can and will keep me in the loop.”
In a letter to all deputies sent out Monday, Manning said, “It has been brought to my attention once again that we have more disgruntled employees. There are repeated complaints of the sheriff, the undersheriff and myself being the reason for low morale.”
Manning told the deputies that they can either be productive or go work somewhere else, again asking for the rumors to stop, the letter said.
“This is also considered your verbal counseling,” the letter concludes.
The sheriff’s department has had higher turnover this year, with former undersheriff Ken Jennings being fired in March and deputies Curtis Fields and Floyd Branson resigning shortly after Jennings was fired.
The newspaper asked Clardy about those rumors Wednesday with a simple question.
Are Clardy and Alicia Manning having sex or have they ever had sex while she was employed at the sheriff’s department?
“No. No, we have not.” Clardy said.
“But state law wouldn’t make that one way or another, but it’s not a professional thing to do.
We haven’t been in any kind of relationship at all, we’re good friends. Me and Larry are good friends, but we’re not having sex, either,” he said.
“Me and my wife split up two years ago. We’ve been divorced for three months. Lotta people wanna talk about stuff that’s not happened. I don’t have time for that stuff.”
“I could be making a lot more money working elsewhere, but I’m not. You don’t do this job for the money.”