The new mayor of the central Minnesota town of Rice will be facing a court date after he was cited Thursday for driving under the influence as he prepared to operate a school bus.
A Rice police officer and Benton County sheriff's deputies took Erik Bonde into custody outside Rice Elementary School after confronting him about driving with a suspended driver's license. Officers observed signs that Bonde, who was elected to office in November, was intoxicated and found a container with an alcoholic beverage that Bonde had with him on the bus.
Results of a preliminary breath test showed that Bonde's blood alcohol content was above the legal limit for driving, said Benton County Sheriff Troy Heck.
Bonde, 46, was taken to the Benton County Jail and cited for driving while intoxicated and possessing an open bottle.
Police first encountered Bonde about 1:30 p.m. Thursday and reminded him he was not able to drive until his license was reinstated. About 90 minutes later, Bonde was spotted in the driver's seat of a small van-sized school bus operated by Metropolitan Transportation Network (MTN).
Bonde was at the school to pick up two children, including the grandson of MTN's chief operating officer, said Tashitaa Tufaa, CEO at the Fridley-based company.
There were no students on the bus when Bonde was arrested.
"We transport thousands of students every day and we take safety seriously. It's our No. 1 priority," Tufaa said. "We do not tolerate this type of behavior."
Bonde had a valid driver's license when MTN hired him in August, and he began driving in September. Bonde's license was to expire in 2020, and the company was unaware it had been suspended, Tufaa said. Bonde no longer works for MTN.
Bonde was not an employee of the Sauk Rapids-Rice school district, though he did at one time serve as a tutor at Rice Elementary through Minnesota Reading Corps, said district superintendent Aaron Sinclair.
"The school district appreciates the work of local law enforcement as they work to ensure our students, staff and community members are safe," he said in a statement. "We hold our employees, as well as the employees of the businesses we contract with, to the highest standards."
Bonde has been released from jail. A court date has not been set.
Bonde has a previous drunken driving conviction from 2007 in Crow Wing County, court records show.