REDDING, CALIF. (CN) – The pastor and directors of The First Southern Baptist Church of Redding conspired to defraud parishioners by taking for themselves a $90,000 eminent domain payment from the City of Redding, instead of using it to pay the church’s debts, parishioners say in a class action in Shasta County Court.
Plaintiffs say church membership declined from 170 to less than 20 since defendant the Rev. Danny Ray Smith arrived in September 2006. They say Smith arrived from Texas “with an agenda to reduce the membership, sell the church property, and then start a new church in a different location.”
They claim Smith and his co-conspirators on the church board, in carrying out that plan, “have destroyed all church records in an effort to erase a paper trail of his conduct,” and have refused parishioners’ requests for records.
Plaintiffs say that the church owes $325,612 on its mortgage. They say Smith and his co-conspirators took “a $90,000 check from the City of Redding,” an eminent domain payment to widen a city road, and told the parish that they would use the money to pay down the mortgage loan. But, plaintiffs say, all this money was “kept by defendants and distributed amongst themselves for personal use.”
Plaintiffs demand punitive damage for fraud, breach of trust, conversion, self dealing and other charges, and an accounting and an injunction prohibiting sale of the church. They are represented by John Reese with Reese, Smalley, Wiseman & Schweitzer.