Wednesday, September 28, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: September 28

September 28, 1915 – Andrew E. Fritz, public examiner of Minnesota, his assistant, J. O. Davis, corporate examiner, and J. O. Cedarburg, Municipal expert, today took possession of the municipal books and accounts of Hibbing and began an audit of all departments of the “world’s richest village.” They state that they will not be able to complete their work for several weeks.

The examination is the state official’s response to a petition filed in his office yesterday, signed by 10 property owners of Hibbing. The public examiner has not made public the petitioners’ names, but it is generally believed in Hibbing that the mining company officials or their sympathizers are at the head of this unexpected move in the controversy that has given national prominence to the range village.

Mayor Victor Power of Hibbing expressed pleasure this evening over the public examiner’s move, saying that he hopes a report from the state will prove to the people of Minnesota that Hibbing has been managed on a fair basis.

Hibbing Mayor Victor Power1

Actual work on the books will begin tomorrow, though a hasty glimpse of the records today showed that cash on hand totaled $434.39 in “village orders,” and checks for small amounts. There was not a cent in coin or currency. There is understood to be something over $30,000 balance to the village credit in banks, however, a large share of it is in cash and the balance in village orders.

Hibbing officials this evening were given to understand that it is planned to follow all “leads” in the investigation and to dig as deeply as the public interest seems to require. If it develops that more expert accountants are needed, they will be put to work.

An effort to get the state to take a hand in the controversy have been made from the mining companies failed to pay their June installment of about $750,000 and let it be known that they did not intend to pay because they believed the tax unjust and unequitable, or were confident it would be devoted to what they termed extravagant purposes.

Most of the efforts have been engineered by Mayor Power, who requested State Auditor Preus to seize the ore of the delinquent companies or to cause the cancellation of such leases on state mines as were held by the companies. Preus refused to take such action.

Minnesota State Auditor Jacob Preus2

The mining companies have clarified the situation somewhat by paying almost entirely in Hibbing village orders, such taxes as were due on mining properties leased from the state. This tactical move practically eliminated the state as a tax money claimant.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Hibbing Books Are Seized By State Officials. Mining Companies Back of Forced Examination, Is Belief.”; Sept. 29, 1915; p. 1.



Photo taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain Feb. 7, 2015, 
as long as acknowledgement included.

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