Dissolution of MudMan ministry, nonprofits put on hold

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MudMan Burgers operated a kiosk on U.S. Highway 93 south of Whitefish. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

New information on the homepage of the Whitefish-based Potter’s Field Ministries website details, among many other things, how the dissolution of the ministry and other related nonprofits — namely the now-shuttered MudMan Burgers chain — will not be happening, at least not for now.

“One thing we do know — God is not finished with Potter’s Field,” the website declares.

A little more than three months ago, the Potter’s Field Ministries IGNITE internship program and MudMan restaurants and coffee stands halted operations following a wave of allegations against the ministry’s former leaders, Mike and Pamela “Pam” Rozell. The Daily Inter Lake spoke with nearly two dozen sources in July who alleged the Rozells verbally and emotionally abused interns, with some personal accounts dating back nearly two decades.

Every source described the MudMan Burgers and its internship program as “a cult.”

The web post comes as wage claims against Potter’s Field Ministries Inc., Potter’s Field Ranch Inc. and MudMan Burgers pile up at the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. Former interns claimed that, as part of the internship program, participants would sometimes work at the MudMan locations for more than 80 hours per week at $2 to $3 an hour, but Montana law states that if an employee works more than 40 hours per week, those hours are required to be paid at time-and-a-half.

According to Lauren Lewis, public information officer for the state Department of Labor, 13 claims have been submitted as of Friday. The claims are in various stages of investigation, but Lewis said four of those “have been determined to be filed outside of the statute of limitation.” That means that, according to Montana law, they were not filed within the time period in which employees may recover wages and penalties. According to one statute, recovery may happen by “filing a complaint within 180 days of default or delay in the payment of wages.”

The post on the ministry’s website states that should it be determined that funds need to be paid out in any of the claims, money will come from the net proceeds of real estate sales and not from any of the ministry’s child sponsorship funds paid by donations from supporters.

As for other possible financial mismanagement, former chairman of the board for the organization, Rob McCoy, relayed months ago that he and others were going to pursue a full investigation into the allegations made against the Rozells and that he would arrange for an independent audit to be taken, with the “findings to be made public.”

According to the post, an independent audit was performed that went over the last two years of records for Potter’s Field Ranch Inc., as well as a “five year look back” on various financial documents. The results of that audit relay that no misappropriations or fiscal malfeasance have been noted as to the conduct of the ministries.

The information in the post on Potter’s Field Ministries website, created and shared by Sharon DiMuro, who identifies herself as the in-house general legal counsel for Potter’s Field Ranch Inc. and Potter’s Field Ministries of Montana Inc., runs contrary to what McCoy, who has since stepped down from his role, claimed would happen following the closing.

In July, McCoy, who lives in California and is also the former chief executive officer of Potter’s Field, told the Daily Inter Lake, “I came in to wind the ministry down. We’re closing our doors, we’re shuttering MudMan, everyone’s going home. It’s over.”

McCoy said at the time that he and others would be working with the Montana Attorney General’s office to appropriately to dissolve the ministries and its assets, including the MudMan chain and locations and would eventually attempt to mend relations with former interns and help them in their healing processes.

But according to the post, “with the beginnings of liquidation of now-unused properties that were the previous sites of the IGNITE internship programs, it has become apparent that dissolution will not be the immediate future of these ministries. Rather, they will remain intact while the respective boards, acting as unified governing entities, determine what purposeful reorganization may be possible.”

According to McCoy, the board has decided to, in some capacity, keep the ministry’s sponsorship program, Potter’s Field Kids, up and running. The program has, over the years, welcomed thousands of donors who give monthly to support children in need in Guatemala, Uganda and elsewhere. While McCoy said he had taken over as board chairman this past summer with the intention to dissolve the ministry and transfer that program to a responsible organization, other board members believe Potter’s Field should remain as the ministry in charge of continuing that program.

McCoy, who had spearheaded the entire dissolution, said he does not agree with that decision and it’s one that prompted his resignation.

“I didn’t agree with their decision to retain the sponsorship program. It was evident that I was outnumbered and I resigned,” McCoy told the Daily Inter Lake. He further stated he has little time to dedicate to the ministry, nor does he have “time to contend with the board’s change of direction.”

No further details regarding dissolution were provided in the website post and the Rozells remain a part of those boards.

The post also did not provide any details as to what properties have been liquidated. There is, however, a sign hanging on one of the MudMan’s former locations off U.S. 93 just south of Whitefish that states the defunct hut will soon become Copper Mountain Coffee. The other properties in Columbia Falls and Kalispell show no outward signs of transfer activity.

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