A newly elected Minnesota mayor faces another drunken driving charge after police allege they found him parked in a bus at an elementary school with an open bottle of booze, waiting to transport two students.
Erick Richard Bonde wandered into town a couple of years ago and quickly ingrained himself in the Rice community, working as a literacy tutor at Rice Elementary School, a bus driver for the Sauk Rapids-Rice School District and a pharmacy technician at the local Corborn’s Pharmacy.
He got involved with the Rice Lions, joined the Rice Area Sportsmen’s Club, and took up Chamber of Commerce meetings.
In less than two years, he was elected mayor in November 2018 over lifelong Rice resident Terry Schwanke, the St. Cloud Times reports.
Bonde, 46, was sworn in as mayor on Monday. By Thursday afternoon, he was sitting behind bars.
Rice Police learned Thursday that Bonde’s driver’s license is suspended, and officers spoke with him around 1:30 p.m. to ensure the mayor was aware he cannot legally drive a vehicle. About an hour and a half later, they caught up with him at Rice Elementary.
The Times reports:
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 children were on the bus with Bonde when he was arrested, but one of the two children he was scheduled to pick up was the grandchild of Tashitaa Tufaa, CEO for the district’s transportation contractor, Metropolitan Transportation Network.
The vehicle Bonde was operating is owned by MTN, his employer until his Thursday arrest. Tufaa said MTA fired the mayor, who had a valid driver’s license and satisfactory driving record when he was hired in August. He alleged MTN was unaware Bonde’s license was suspended and it was not set to expire until 2020.
The Times reports a simple records search showed Bonde was previously convicted of DUI in Crow Wing County in 2007.
“We transport thousands of students every day and we take safety seriously. It’s our No. 1 priority,” Tuffa said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “We do not tolerate this type of behavior.”
Sauk Rapids-Rice Superintendent Aaron Sinclair echoed the concerns about common sense safety in a prepared statement Friday.
“Student safety is always the utmost importance of what we do at Sauk Rapids-Rice schools,” he said. “We hold our employees, as well as the employees of the businesses we contract with, to the highest standards.”
Bonde was booked on misdemeanor DUI and open bottle charges and released from jail without bond once he sobered up, police said.