MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Ena Wildman, the former president of the Ives Dairy Road Baptist Church, said she walked away from her job at the church because of Rev. Michael Leininger's spending.
Wildman claims Leininger mismanaged and misappropriated thousands of dollars. Some of the money, she said, was supposed to be used for a new air conditioning system for the church sanctuary and for supplies for the pre-school.
"I didn't feel like God was in the church anymore," Wildman said.
Wildman is not alone. Several other members of the Ives Estates church in Miami-Dade County, including Leininger's daughter, have the same question: "Where is the money?"
She said the church board agreed to give Leininger $15,000 from a church account late last year. The money, she said, was to be used to get a new air-conditioning system.
"(It was) never fixed," Wildman said. "He went to Africa and when he came back, he said he (didn't) know what happened to the money."
Wildman said they hired a bookkeeper and an accountant.
"There just wasn't records of anything," Helen Machado, the former bookkeeper, said.
When she asked Leininger about what was going on, Machado said he told her, "It's none of your business. You've been hired November 2017. You move from here forward."
Wildman said it was then that she learned that, on top of his bi-weekly $2,350 salary, he was also taking thousands more. He told her and staff he was using the extra money to buy school supplies.
"He could never give me any receipts whatsoever and then there was never (any) supplies," Machado said.
Ronnicia Jackson, a teacher's aide who left the church's preschool, said she didn't trust Leininger.
"We never received (any)," Jackson said.
Teacher Aliha Phillipe, who also left her job at the preschool, said Leininger was not only not buying school supplies, he also wasn't paying her.
"It’s a fabrication. Like, there were no supplies. I bought supplies," Phillipe said.
Those who talked to Local 10 News said Leininger eventually got rid of anyone who questioned his spending habits.
"I was let go for insubordination," Althia Spencer, a former office manager, said. "I asked him what that meant. He had no words for me."
Leininger even got rid of his daughter, Melody Smith, who said she had worked at the church for nine years and until, she said, she questioned her father's salary and spending, as the church faced financial issues.
"From that point on my father increasingly accused me of being against him, conspiring to remove him as pastor," Smith, who now lives in North Carolina, said. "He had me fired from the school office manager position for insubordination. I think that he always knows exactly what he is doing."
Leininger refused to answer any questions. He also didn't explain why teachers at the preschool haven't been paid.
Wildman said she has reported the situation to the police and the state attorney's office. She said police officers told her to hire an attorney and file a lawsuit civilly. It's not a clear-cut case, because church board members gave Leininger access to the church accounts.
The Internal Revenue Service has put a lien on the church, because of unpaid payroll taxes. Bernice Malcom, the president of the church, also refused to answer questions and hung up the phone after saying everyone was lying.