RICE, Minn. — The city’s mayor was arrested on DUI charges on Thursday after he was allegedly preparing to drive a school bus route while intoxicated, police said.
The Rice Police Department learned on Thursday that Erik Richard Bonde, 46, had a suspended driver’s license. At about 1:30 p.m., an officer told Bonde that his license was suspended and that he couldn’t drive until it was reinstated, according to a news release from the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.
At about 3:05 p.m., a Rice Police Department officer learned that Bonde had driven a school bus to Rice Elementary School and was sitting in the driver’s seat of the bus. (No students were aboard the bus at the time.) Officers who spoke with Bonde saw signs that indicated that he was intoxicated, and a test of his blood alcohol level found it to be above the legal limit for driving, according to Sheriff Troy Heck at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. Bonde also reportedly had a container with an alcoholic beverage on the bus. He was arrested and issued a citation for misdemeanor DUI and possessing an open bottle.
Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools posted a statement on its Facebook page that it contracts with Metropolitan Transportation Network (MTN) for its bus service, and has begun an audit of the company’s hiring and employment practices.
“Student safety is always of the utmost importance for Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools,” the district added in the statement. “We hold our employees, as well as the employees of the businesses we contract services with, to the highest standards.”
Tashitaa Tufaa, the CEO for MTN, told St. Cloud Times that Bonde is no longer employed with the company. He added that one of the two students that Bonde was supposed to pick up was the grandchild of the company’s chief operating officer, and “We focus on the well-being and safety of each and every child we transport. Safety is the number one priority for the company."
Tufaa also told the newspaper that Bonde’s driver’s license was valid when he was hired, according to a Minnesota Department of Public Safety report, and was not scheduled to expire until 2020.
Court records show that Bonde, who was elected mayor of Rice on Nov. 6, had a drunk driving conviction in 2007 in Crow Wing County, the Associated Press reports.