MudMan looks to return as for-profit business next month
The Mudman location in Columbia Falls in this file photo.
Daily Inter Lake | March 11, 2020 12:41 PM
MudMan Burgers is back — almost.
That’s according to Sharon DiMuro, legal counsel for Potter’s Field Ministries and Potter’s Field Ranch, who said the owners of the popular Flathead Valley burger chain that closed last summer are aiming for an April reopening at their former Kalispell and Columbia Falls locations.
The restaurants had shut down after an outpouring of allegations against MudMan and Potter’s Field founders, Mike and Pam Rozell. Nearly two dozen sources told the Daily Inter Lake last summer the ministry and MudMan operated as “a cult” and accused the Rozells of psychological, verbal and spiritual abuse.
MudMan burgers had been operating as a “doing business as” entity under the Potter’s Field Ranch nonprofit. But DiMuro said the Rozells are in the process of reopening the two restaurants as for-profit limited liability companies.
According to DiMuro, the Rozells — who still serve on the board of Potters Field — will be donating 50 cents from every burger sold to the ministry’s youth program that offers support to children in other countries, including Guatemala and Uganda.
“What we were hearing from the community after all of this blew up last year is that they didn’t care about the religion side of things or the politics of the Rozells, they just missed their burgers,” DiMuro said. “Now people can have their burgers, and know they are also feeding kids around the world.”
DiMuro said while MudMan had been operating under the Potters Field nonprofit umbrella, the business will now operate completely separate from the ministry. She said the Rozells saw the reopening of MudMan as a means to keep the Potter’s Field kids program afloat — a program DiMuro said is still providing 15,000 meals per month to kids in need.
“They (the Rozells) will essentially become the primary donors to the program,” DiMuro said.
She said while her and the Rozells anticipate business may be slow at first given the allegations that surfaced last summer, she said eventually the community will “move on.”
“They’re very excited to be bringing MudMan back to this valley and to be supporting this ministry,” DiMuro said.
DiMuro emphasized the two MudMan locations will operate differently than they have in the past. Previously, the only people who could work at MudMan were interns of Potter’s Field’s IGNITE program, but now DiMuro said anyone can apply and there will be no internship program resurfacing.
As part of the now-defunct internship program, participants were required to work at a MudMan location for 40 hours per week. However, former interns alleged they would work closer to 60 or 80 hours per week and would only receive about $2 to $3 per hour and were told anything more than that would be considered volunteer work.
After the internship program and MudMan burger chain shut down, more than a dozen wage claims were submitted to Montana’s Department of Labor. Some of those claims are still being investigated.
DiMuro said those claims should not interfere with the Rozells reopening MudMan because they emerged when the chain was still a “doing business as” entity under Potter’s Field.
According to the Montana Secretary of State’s office, MudMan is currently filed as an LLC and neither Potter’s Field Ranch nor Potter’s Field Ministries are listed as affiliated nonprofits.
However, the business description states “food and drink sales, not for profit, proceeds to help educate and feed children.” DiMuro says the “not for profit” portion is a mistake that will soon be corrected.
THE REOPENING was first announced in a blog post on phoenixpreacher.com, a religious blog site, titled “No Repentance Necessary...Potter’s Field Starts the Comeback.”
The post states the Rozells, in addition to reopening MudMan, “are trying to woo back interns.” The author alleges this is particularly alarming because the Rozells have not responded to the more than two dozen stories from “Potter’s Field Survivors,” which have been shared on the Phoenix Preacher website.
“Despite this cowardly, ungody, and unbiblical way of treating people, they intend to move forward with rebuilding their ‘ministry,’” the blog post states.
But DiMuro said this post should be “taken with a grain of salt” and that the Rozells have no intentions of restarting the internship program.
Still, the relaunch of MudMan raises several questions and goes against what former Potter’s Field leaders initially said would happen after the restaurants and internship program folded.
Former chairman of the board for Potter’s Field, Rob McCoy, told the Daily Inter Lake last July the ministry’s assets, including MudMan, would be sold.
At the time, McCoy said he had been brought in to “wind the ministry down” and that the Rozells would have no part in the liquidation of Potter’s Field or MudMan. He said, “We’re closing our doors, we’re shuttering MudMan, everyone’s going home. It’s over.”
However, in late 2019 a post from DiMuro went up on the home page of the Potter’s Field Ministry’s website stating “God is not finished with Potter’s Field” and announced the dissolution of the ministry and that MudMan would no longer be happening.
McCoy, who had spearheaded the entire dissolution, said after the announcement that he did not agree with the decision to keep the Rozells on the board or to maintain the kids sponsorship program. These decisions ultimately prompted his resignation from his position on the board last fall.
“It was evident that I was outnumbered and resigned,” McCoy told the Daily Inter Lake last December, adding that he did not have time to “contend with the board’s change of direction.”