The veteran of 32 years and eight months with the City of Port Aransas decided he wouldn't wait until January to retire, when he would gain additional retirement medical benefits. Instead, he said, he believes he was forced out of his job by political pressure.
"If I stick around, I'll get fired and lose my medical benefits," he said on that Thursday in his office as head of the city's operations division.
Moreno said he wasn't surprised at reported pressure to get rid of him. He named Mayor Claude Brown and Councilman Bubba Jensen as the forces behind the move either to get him to quit or to fire him.
"I knew about everything two months before it happened," he said, citing friends who alerted him to moves to remove both him and former police chief Don Perkins. Perkins was fired in October 2005.
"It's all political," Moreno said.
Brown said on Monday, Dec. 3, that suggestions he wanted Moreno fired were nonsense.
"My objective was to get someone in there (as head of operations) who can run an efficient operation. The study report (on the operations division) shows (Moreno's) inability to run a crew and look into the future," Brown said.
He noted that city council members had unanimously expressed concern about the division at council meetings during June and July.
Jensen said at no time did he target Moreno for firing.
Indeed, Moreno's operations division has been under fire for more than a year, since the city council told City Manager Michael Kovacs to come up with a plan for making the department more efficient. They gave him until Nov. 1 to present them with a draft proposal; Kovacs handed them his preliminary plan at a city council meeting on Thursday, Oct. 25, that included the study of the operations division Brown referred to.
The plan calls for breaking the division into three teams, one of which would have primary responsibility for beach maintenance and one of which would handle other city maintenance and operations. The third team, vehicle maintenance, would remain basically as it is now.
Moreno was to have been offered the job as head of the beach maintenance team, but he declined that offer.
"If they'll leave the guys alone, it's going to work," he said of the plan. "But if they split them up … they'll have to get some more people."
Moreno said the operations division hasn't grown in the past five or six years.
"Instead of going forward, they kept pushing me back and back and back," he said.
Moreno said the operations division has 29 different jobs, an assessment
backed up by one of the consultants
brought in by the city to study the
"When we were picking up seaweed, it was a full-time job," Moreno said.
"Nobody ever came to me and told me I was doing anything wrong," he said.
Moreno said at one time he was told the city would offer to "buy him out" - pay for his retirement and benefits. But he said Finance Director Judy Lyle figured out what that would cost, and the offer was never made.
Kovacs said Moreno could possibly have learned that a study would be made of the division because documents relating to that were left out at city hall within easy sight, but he said there was no effort to target Moreno.
"I don't know what they have against me, except that I used to hang out with Perkins," Moreno said.
Moreno said he bears no ill will toward the city.
"I love Port Aransas," he said, remembering that he and his wife lived here when they first married, even though they eventually bought a house in Gregory because of the high cost of living in Port Aransas.
Moreno said he will go to work for the San Patricio Monument Company in Portland, where he will operate a computerized system for engraving and decorating headstones.
Red Babb, a supervisor under Moreno, will be the point of contact at the operations division until an interim public works director can be found, Kovacs said. He said he hoped to get an interim director in place "as soon as possible."