Jan. 13, 2019– Mary Greeley News – The mayor of Rice was arrested Thursday on suspicion of DUI after officers found him preparing to operate a school bus while intoxicated, according to a press release Friday from Benton County Sheriff Troy Heck.
Erik Richard Bonde, 46, was cited for misdemeanor DUI and possessing an open bottle, according to the release.
Bonde, who voters elected Nov. 6, was sworn in Monday during the first Rice City Council meeting of the year. He was arrested shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday.
The Rice Police Department learned Thursday Bonde had a suspended driver’s license, according to the release. An officer made contact with Bonde at 1:30 p.m. to advise him he could not drive until his license was reinstated.
At 3:05 p.m., the officer learned Bonde had driven a van-sized school bus to Rice Elementary School and was seated in the driver’s seat of the bus, the release said.
The officer and Benton County deputies approached the bus and reminded Bonde his license was suspended. According to the release, officers observed signs indicating Bonde was intoxicated, as well as a container holding an alcoholic beverage on the bus.
Bonde’s blood alcohol level was tested and found to be above the legal limit for driving, the release said. He was arrested and transported to the Benton County Jail in Foley.
No students were in the bus while Bonde was operating it, according to the release. He was held at the jail until he was sober and released without bail. He will be required to “appear in court in the near future to answer for these charges,” the release said.
Bonde has a previous DUI conviction from 2007 in Crow Wing County, according to court records.
Sauk Rapids-Rice Public schools Superintendent Aaron Sinclair said Bonde is not a district employee, but an employee of Fridley-based Metropolitan Transportation Network, the bus company the district contracts with. The vehicle Bonde was operating is owned by MTN.
“Student safety is always of the utmost importance of what we do at Sauk Rapids-Rice schools,” Sinclair said Friday in a statement. “We hold our employees, as well as the employees of the businesses we contract with, to the highest standards.
“We appreciate the work of local law enforcement as they work to ensure our students, staff and community members are safe.”
MTN CEO Tashitaa Tufaa said Friday his company is well aware of the situation, as one of the two children Bonde was supposed to pick up was the grandchild of MTN’s chief operating officer.
Bonde is no longer employed with the company following his arrest. Tufaa said “we do not tolerate it.”
Bonde was hired in August and started driving for MTN in September. Tufaa said Bonde’s license was valid when he was hired according to a state Department of Motor Vehicles report, and it was not set to expire until 2020.
“MTN transports over 20,000 students every day and the safety of those children is critically important,” Tufaa said. “We focus on the well-being and safety of each and every child we transport. Safety is the number one priority for the company.”