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Hendrix terminated, then is hired by sheriff’s office

By April 18, 2024No Comments
More than 30 people, including many jail personnel, attend a McCurtain County Jail Trust meeting Tuesday in which jail administrator Larry Hendrix was fired. (Staff photo)

More than 30 people, including many jail personnel, attend a McCurtain County Jail Trust meeting Tuesday in which jail administrator Larry Hendrix was fired. (Staff photo)

After going into closed session for almost an hour, members of the McCurtain County Jail Trust voted unanimously Tuesday to fire jail administrator Larry Hendrix.

New jail trust member Jason Ricketts made the motion to fire Hendrix, and county commissioner John Williams seconded it.

Sheriff Kevin Clardy is a member of the trust board and its chairman, but he votes only case of a tie.

Clardy was present during the closed session discussions, then later hired Hendrix to work at the sheriff’s office as an investigator.

Records show Hendrix is still facing a 2016 federal lawsuit arising from his employment in Choctaw County.

The court stayed the proceedings while the plaintiff’s criminal case moves forward.

The plaintiff, Newton Cook, Jr., claims that during an arrest, Hendrix punched him in the ribs, forcibly entered his home without consent or a warrant and seized all his guns. Cook claims he suffered broken ribs and says Hendrix violated his civil rights, which is why the case is in federal court.

The jail trust members who voted to terminate Hendrix Tuesday were John Williams, who is also chairman of the Board of County Commissioners; Ricketts, Lonnie Watson and Dick Pogue.

Neither Hendrix nor the board members commented on the reason for the firing. Hendrix was scheduled on the agenda to give an administrator’s report on the jail, but he got up and left the table after the termination vote.

The jail was recently criticized after a surprise inspection. The state threatened to turn over the findings to the district attorney unless infractions were promptly corrected.

Also, following a jail whistleblower’s allegations to this newspaper, Hendrix admitted that jailers had been allowed to regularly walk around the jail’s $180,000 body scanner even though he knew it was a violation of jail policy.

The white whistleblower also claimed that black inmates were being treated “like garbage” in the jail, and differently from the white inmates.

On Tuesday, the newspaper presented a paid hospital bill for about $32,000 on an inmate who had been allegedly assaulted in jail by a fellow inmate on March 22 and then treated at a Tulsa hospital. Jail trust members (except the sheriff) knew nothing of the incident, and because the bill had apparently been paid by an insurance carrier, there was no paperwork on the incident on file at the county clerk’s office.

Clardy said there had been an altercation, and one man suffered a fractured jaw while another had a pre-existing hip injury.

When Ricketts said that sounded like a lot of money, Clardy responded, “That’s a small one.” The jail has had some medical bills amounting to more than $100,000 before.

Trust members suggested that the next jail administrator should inform trust members about jail assaults before they have to learn about them from the newspaper.

In the early part of the meeting, trust members approved an inter-local agreement with the city of Hochatown to house its inmates for $50 a day since the city has no jail of its own. The jail currently does that for other municipalities in the county, and the Choctaw Nation, that have no jail of their own here.

Hendrix said the actual cost to the county for housing inmates is $53.18 per day, but there is nothing in the state statutes that allows the county to refuse their inmates.

Commissioner Tina Foshee-Thomas wondered if the jail was operating near capacity.

Hendrix said it is. “We have outgrown our jail. We’ve talked about it for quite some time.” Clardy noted, however, that in the case of Hochatown, there is really no increase bec

ause the sheriff’s department was having to bring those people to the jail before Hochatown was incorporated.

Assistant jail administrator J.C. McMillan will operate the jail until an interim administrator is named. The jail trust set a special meeting for 10:30 a.m. Friday to begin discussions on that issue.

The sheriff was working Wednesday on getting paperwork filed for Hendrix’ new job as investigator.

Records show when Hendrix was previously an investigator for the sheriff’s office, he filed 12 cases from Jan. 1, 2019 to Nov. 30, 2021, almost three years.

Other criminal investigators during that period filed far more:

  • John Jones, 215 cases.
  • Devin Black, 110 cases.
  • Alicia Manning, 65 cases.
  • Bruce Johnson, 57 cases.

The previous director of the Criminal Investigation Division at the sheriff’s office, Billy Conaway, filed 88 cases in 2016 and 83 in 2015.