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Ortman first won election as the Comptroller of St. Anthony in 1870. He won re-election in 1871, and in 1872 he was elected, with no opposition, Comptroller of Minneapolis, which absorbed St. Anthony that spring. Ortman continued to win unopposed races through the 1870s. By 1877 the City Council suspected Ortman was a little too comfortable at his post. They began to investigate his work.

Feeling the heat, Ortman resigned on June 19, 1877. Next day, the Council approved 4 charges against the former Comptroller:

  1. Appropriating and converting to his own use Comptroller's warrants, drawn in favor of and belongng to other persons. In May 1877, 2 such warrants totalled $27.85;
  2. Issuing licenses contrary to the city ordinances, and taking money for them for his own use. In May 1877, Ortman had sold to 13 men licenses to sell liquor in Minneapolis. In each case he pocketed the $100;
  3. Obtaining money under false pretenses from citizens under cover of his official position. On May 15, 1877, for instance, Ortman gave 2 liquor dealers to understand that he was authorized to collect license fees. He kept the $50 each gentleman paid him;
  4. Neglect of official duty. Ortman frequenlty failed to show up at his office during April, May and June of 1877, often for 4 or 5 straight working days, and he passed his time "in drunkenness and dissipation" throughout his term.

The charges went to the grand jury. On Dec. 3, Ortman was indicted on 2 counts of obtaining goods under false pretenses. Two days later he pleaded not guilty. The jury reached a verdict on Jan. 19, 1878: Guilty, on both counts. Next day the judge sentenced Ortman to pay a $100 fine, or spend 3 months in jail. He paid the fine.

In a year or so, Ortman landed a job as clerk in the County Auditor's office. At the time of his death he had risen to Deputy Auditor of Hennepin County. Ortman died on Dec. 27, 1890, and was buried in Lakewood Cemetery.

— Neal Baxter

Highwood Press — Minneapolis, MN — (612) 872-9156

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