About 14 years ago, school board candidate Michael Flores climbed into a green Plymouth Neon that was left idling outside a Middleton hotel with the keys still in the ignition.
The car’s owner — whom Flores didn’t know — was inside the hotel delivering pizza when Flores drove away. Flores, who said that he was intoxicated at the time, was arrested after police found him and the car about 20 miles away in east Madison, according to court records.
Flores, who was 22 at the time, pleaded guilty in 2000 to taking and driving a vehicle without the driver’s consent and was accepted to the Dane County District Attorney’s deferred prosecution program for first-time offenders. After about nine months of counseling and paying back the pizza deliveryman’s lost wages as part of the program, the felony charge against Flores was dismissed in 2001.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” said Flores. “It really showed me how fragile freedom can be. You make a mistake and it can be the end of your life as you know it. It was very scary. I have to kind of breathe sometimes … I still feel that. It’s good to remember because it keeps you from making the same mistake.”