Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be a public official

Hugh Sanderson was a good man for the job — which was treasurer for Kandiyohi County, but he seemed to be one of those people whose good intentions come to naught. In the first place, he served in that office during those really difficult years when the grasshoppers took over the territory. People didn’t have the money to pay their taxes, which it was the treasurer’s duty to collect. Things came to a pretty pass when the county commissioners issued a public statement to the effect that the treasurer’s accounts were short $1200, a princely sum in those days. If that wasn’t bad enough, a few days later the commissioners filed a second report that the deficiency was actually $1,400 as revealed by an audit.

Gov. John Pillsbury


The commissioners eventually sent a report to Gov. Pillsbury, based on the auditor’s figures, that Sanderson’s records were short in that amount and that he had failed to collect many property taxes for the grasshopper years and requesting him to remove Sanderson from office. The governor, who had made personal loans to many hopperstricken farmers, ignored the commissioners’ request, because he had granted a tax-time exemption for those years.

The commissioners started an investigation which showed that Sanderson had made such a loan to one Mr. O’Brien. The loan had been made only after consultations with the county auditor and the register of deeds. That $1,000 loan, incidentally, was paid in full as soon as O’Brien reaped a crop.

The commissioners, thinking they were acting in the best interests of Kandiyohi County, ordered Sanderson to post an additional $20,000 in bonds before Sept. 18. Sanderson obtained the bonds but held them until Sept. 19, making only one trip to the courthouse. the county attorney ruled that Mr. Sanderson had not complied with the commissioners orders, so the office was vacant.

This gave Kandiyohi County two treasurers. The commissioners appointed Andrew Railson to the office, although Sanderson still claimed that he was still the elected treasurer so he stayed in the office until the matter could be settled in the courts.

County attorney Arctander ruled that taxes should be paid to Railson in his temporary office in the courthouse. His opinion was supported by the attorney general.

In the next election, Sanderson was defeated by Railson. The election may have been influenced by a series of very nasty charges filed by Sanderson against the attorney general. He ended those with one final charge that he had been set upon by (the following is a translation for public consumption) the boss shyster and scalawag of the Northwest.