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In first days as mayor, he's arrested for DUI and possessing open bottle — after driving elementary school bus


Cops learned the mayor had a suspended driver's license

Image source: Benton County Sheriff's Office

It hasn't been exactly a banner beginning of a term for the new mayor of Rice, Minnesota.

Erik Richard Bonde, 46, was elected Nov. 6, sworn in last Monday — and then arrested Thursday, the St. Cloud Times reported.

What happened?

Benton County Sheriff Troy Heck said in a news release that Rice police learned Thursday that Bonde had a suspended driver's license, the paper reported.

So an officer contacted Bonde at 1:30 p.m. telling him he couldn't drive until his license was reinstated, the Times said.

Then that officer found out just after 3 p.m. that Bonde drove a van-sized school bus to Rice Elementary School and was in the driver's seat, the paper said, citing the release.

The officer and Benton County deputies approached the bus to remind Bonde his license was suspended, the Times reported, adding that the release said officers observed signs Bonde was intoxicated — as well as an alcoholic beverage container on the bus. No students were on the bus at the time, the Times added.

Bonde's blood-alcohol level was above the legal driving limit, the paper said, citing the release, so he was arrested, cited for misdemeanor DUI and possessing an open bottle, and taken to jail.

The mayor was held until he was sober and released without bail, the Times said, adding that the release said he will be required to "appear in court in the near future to answer for these charges."

Previous DUI conviction

Bonde — who has a 2007 DUI conviction in Crow Wing County, the paper said, citing court records — was hired in August by Metropolitan Transportation Network, the bus company the school district contracts with, and started driving for MTN in September, the Times added.

MTN CEO Tashitaa Tufaa told the paper Friday that Bonde is no longer employed with the company in the wake of his arrest as "we do not tolerate it."

Tufaa added to the Times that Bonde's license was valid when he was hired, citing a state Department of Motor Vehicles report, and wasn't set to expire until 2020.

The CEO also noted to the paper that the company was well aware of the situation, as one of the two children Bonde was supposed to pick up from the elementary school is the grandchild of MTN's chief operating officer.

What did the school district have to say?

Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools Superintendent Aaron Sinclair told the Times that Bonde is not a district employee and that MTN owns the bus Bonde was operating — but that officials were concerned.

"Student safety is always of the utmost importance of what we do at Sauk Rapids-Rice schools," Sinclair told the paper in a Friday statement. "We hold our employees, as well as the employees of the businesses we contract with, to the highest standards."

What else do we know about Bonde?

A message was left on Bonde's voicemail seeking comment Friday, the Times said.

In an earlier story about the Rice mayoral campaign, the paper said Bonde "works as a literacy tutor at Rice Elementary School, a school bus driver for the Sauk Rapids-Rice School District and a pharmacy technician at Coborn's Pharmacy in Sartell. He lives in Rice with his wife, Kelly, and has three children."

Bonde — who moved to Rice only about a year-and-a-half ago — was quoted by the Times as saying, "I enjoy being involved. I thought someone with a little background and experience might do well, even though I'm a new member of the community."

More from the paper:

This is Bonde's first run for mayor. He has previous experience in city government, having served on boards and committees in his hometown of Brainerd, including serving as president of the city's charter commission.

"I like to be active in my local community," Bonde said. "Previous to this, I joined the Legion and soon became Vice Commander of our local Post 473 in Rice."

Bonde said he is an active member of the Rice Lions and the Rice Area Sportmen's Club, and has started attending local Chamber of Commerce meetings.

Rice's population was just over 1,300 in 2014; it's located about 90 minutes northwest of Minneapolis.

(H/T: EAGNews)

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