Clearwater pastor accused of theft, fired

- The lead pastor of Country Side Christian Church in Clearwater has been fired after the church says he stole thousands of dollars from them.  The church says now former lead pastor Jeff Countryman has since repaid the money, so they’re not going to the police.

Countryman's replacement, Pastor Glenn Davis, broke the news to the large congregation Sunday.   He told FOX 13 that, during an audit of expense reports, it was discovered a significant amount of money was gone.

“The red flags proved to be correct,” Davis said.

Tuesday, the church wouldn’t release an exact amount, only that it was under $15,000. Davis wouldn’t comment on how the funds were misused or misappropriated.

The church says Countryman also lied about his education experience when he was hired at Country Side Christian Church six months prior.

Pastor Davis says funding comes from donations from their congregation, and they take misuse very seriously.

“I don’t think it could have been handled any better, from the very beginning we found out and within four days of finding it to be fact, everything was admitted to,” Davis said.  “He was terminated within four days.”

The church says countryman repaid the money so they won’t press charges.

Jeff Countryman has not responded to FOX 13’s request for comment.

In Lee County, the Cape Coral Police Department confirms there is a theft investigation at Countryman’s former church, Cape Coral Christian Fellowship, investigators are expected to release more details in the coming days.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story referred to Pastor Glenn Davis an an "interim" pastor. The church has since clarified his status.

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