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Hot dogs & redemption

Council reverses rejection of vendor permit

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POSTED February 17, 2010 1:57 a.m.
Irineo Gutierrez Jr. is going to sell hot dogs in Manteca after all.

How it all happened is a story of remorse, rehabilitation, and giving a man a second chance.

Gutierrez, 40, was denied a request by Police Chief Dave Bricker to secure a vendor’s license so he could sell hot dogs on city streets to help support his wife and two children. Bricker, under municipal law, had no choice but to reject the request as Gutierrez had a criminal record.

The first was as a 20-year-old when he was convicted for the possession of controlled substances on Sept. 12, 1990. The second time was two years later on Nov. 3, 1992 when he was convicted of second degree robbery using a firearm in the commission of a felony, and drunk driving. That conviction resulted in a prison sentence.

Gutierrez served his time and was released early from prison for being a model inmate. He also successfully completed probation without incident.

In fact, he was employed the entire time he was on parole.

The Stockton resident went back to school, secured a college degree and landed a job working with a Silicon Valley computer firm. He earned several promotions and had 12 years as an employee when the economic slowdown cost him his job.

Finding a job as an ex-felon isn’t easy. Gutierrez noted you have to be upfront about your past.

He finally ended up working for his father when he secured work in the Santa Cruz Mountains driving 100 miles one way when there was a job to do. That work, though eventually dried up as well. Then for the past two years while looking for a job his family has had to rely on his wife Veronica’s income. She works six days a week on her job.

Now his family faces the prospect of ending up on the street if he can’t earn income to help support them.

“I regret very much what I did,” said Gutierrez. “People do change.”

After getting out of prison, one of the first things he did was go to the store that he robbed and apologized to the man he held up as well as the owner.

Going into business for himself selling hot dogs may be a step down from being an electrical engineer helping produce computer equipment but all Gutierrez cares about is pulling his own weight, supporting his family, and setting a good example for his children.

His hopes are that his son will learn from his mistake and be able to realize a dream they share. It is a dream that Gutierrez couldn’t attain due to his criminal act – serve America by becoming a United States Marine.

“We as Americans ought to give people a second chance,” Gutierrez said.

Blog comments on the story posted Saturday on the Manteca Bulletin website (www.mantecabulletin.com) on Gutierrez’s appeal to the City Council after being denied permission to secure a vendor’s license due to his criminal record were numerous. Comments were split fairly evenly between those who felt after 20 years he had paid his debt to society and those who thought it was reprehensible that he could possibly be selling hot dogs on city streets.

City Attorney John Brinton noted “the chief had no choice” under city ordinances but to reject Gutierrez’s request for a vendor’s license when he confirmed the criminal background.

Bricker answered Councilman John Harris’ inquiry about criminal activity in the past 15 years by noting Gutierrez had a clean record save two minor traffic infractions. He also contacted the Department of Corrections and found out he was an exemplary prisoner and parolee.

When Harris – a retired parole officer - asked Bricker about his personal opinion beyond following the city law as he was legally required to do so, Bricker responded that society can’t very well expect people to redeem themsleves “and then stand in the way when they try.”

“It takes quite a man to do this, “Councilman Vince Hernandez said of Gutierrez appealing in public, admitting to his past mistakes, and expressing remorse.

Councilman Steve DeBrum noted Gutierrez is “an individual who has sought redemption and is going the extra mile” to find ways to support his family. DeBrum added that Gutierrez “is out there looking for work says a lot.”

“I’d buy a hot dog from you (Gutierrez),” noted Councilwoman Debby Moorhead in offering her support of his bid to overturn Bricker’s rejection of the vendor permit.

Retired Manteca Police Chief and Mayor Willie Weatherford made it unanimous.

Now Gutierrez has to secure a health permit, business license and a state resale permit and he’s in business.
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