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Karlstad, Minn., school superintendent on leave following DWI arrest in school vehicle, on school grounds

Michael Rene Gadbois, 55, superintendent of Tri-County Schools in Karlstad, Minn., was suspended with pay following an arrest Saturday, Sept. 25, for second-degree DWI, with two aggravating factors.

Karlstad town logo .jpg
A town sign in Karlstad, Minn. (Grand Forks Herald)

A northwest Minnesota school administrator is on leave after he was arrested by a sheriff's deputy for being heavily intoxicated inside a school vehicle.

Michael Rene Gadbois, 55, superintendent of Tri-County Schools in Karlstad, Minn., was suspended with pay following an arrest on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 25, for second-degree DWI, with two aggravating factors.

Court documents filed with the Ninth Judicial District Court indicate Gadbois was arrested with a blood alcohol level of 0.21, more than twice the legal limit for operating a vehicle. The aggravating factors include an open bottle of alcohol in the vehicle Gadbois was in, along with being in possession of alcohol on school grounds. Gadbois was discovered by a Kittson County Sheriff’s Office deputy in a school minivan, which was parked at the school.

According to an attorney representing Tri-County Schools, Gadbois was suspended following an emergency meeting of the school board on Monday, Sept. 27. What comes next is an investigation into the charges against Gadbois, which could result in disciplinary action. Gadbois, the attorney said, was suspended with pay pending an investigation, leaving the school to search for new leadership, at least in the short term.

“I believe that the School Board is in the process of retaining a superintendent from the neighboring school district to help, in the interim,” said Stephen Knutson, a partner with the law firm Knutson, Flynn & Deans P.A., based in Mendota Heights, Minn.

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According to the statement of probable cause for arrest, Gadbois was discovered in the minivan with his head resting between the steering wheel and door at approximately 9 p.m. He was discovered by Deputy Terry Bayne, who was on routine patrol in Karlstad.

According to Sheriff's Office documents, about 30 minutes before he discovered Gadbois, Bayne found the van’s rear hatch open and what appeared to be several cases of soda on the ground next to it. Music was playing in the van, the school’s door was open and lights were on inside. At that point Bayne believed someone was unloading school supplies from the van. It was when he returned to the location that he discovered Gadbois inside the vehicle.

Concerned about a medical situation, Bayne approached Gadbois and discovered he had bloodshot eyes, and “a very strong odor of alcohol about him,” according to arrest documents. With difficulty, Bayne was able to identify Gadbois, who struggled to produce his wallet. The documents claim Gadbois nearly fell over when Bayne tried to conduct a field sobriety test. He was then placed under arrest and brought to the Kittson County Sheriff’s office, at about 9:20 p.m., where he consented to a breath test.

Gadbois was released from jail on Monday after posting bail in the amount of $12,000. He was instructed to not, among other things, drink alcohol, enter a bar or liquor store. He also must submit to alcohol and drug testing, should law enforcement officers believe he violated those terms.

This appears to be the third alcohol-related arrest for Gadbois. Court documents indicate he was arrested for DWI in 2015 and 2017, both times in Alaska.

The maximum penalty for second-degree DWI in Minnesota is one year imprisonment and a $3,000 fine. The maximum penalty for both charges of an open bottle of alcohol in a vehicle, and possession of alcohol on school property is 90 days' imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.

School administrators, including Assistant Principal Lori Zick, on Tuesday declined to give information about the employment status of Gadbois, as well as whether a special meeting of the School Board had actually been convened. The Grand Forks Herald made several unsuccessful attempts to contact board members for information. Zick referred the Herald to Knutson for information about the situation.

Knutson told the Herald that the meeting occurred and was noticed properly under state open meeting laws, as a local media outlet was notified of the meeting, along with board members. He could not name the media outlet that was notified.

Related Topics: CRIME AND COURTS
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