What kind of relationship did Steve Raucci, now jailed as an accused terrorist, have with Schenectady school administrators during his tenure as head of buildings and grounds?
Well, here’s one indication: When a subordinate challenged him for the leadership of the local CSEA unit, which Raucci also headed, he felt comfortable enough not only to bullyrag and harass that subordinate but also comfortable enough to go to the school superintendent, Eric Ely, and ask Ely to suspend the guy for 90 days.
This is according to the subordinate, James D. Bachus, a utility worker, and his wife, Barbara, a teacher in Schenectady schools, who claims that Raucci extended his anger to her by cutting off the heat to her classroom this past January.
Nothing came of Raucci’s request because, as luck would have it, he was arrested the very next day on multiple charges of arson and terrorism and has been in jail without bail since then, awaiting trial.
But it’s revealing, to me at least, that he had such a relationship with Ely that he would feel at ease making such a request after all that Ely and others had already been told about his activities, which included the alleged slashing of tires and spray painting of houses of employees who crossed him.
The most recent allegations are contained in a lawsuit filed by the Bachuses against the Schenectady City School District, against Raucci, and against two other administrators for “condoning and empowering the conduct of Raucci.”
The other two administrators are Michael Stricos, director of human resources, and Michael San Angelo, assistant superintendent for business. Ely is not named as a defendant.
Bachus allegedly complained to both Stricos and San Angelo about Raucci’s harassment and intimidation and got no satisfaction, and may even have been punished himself for insubordination — the legal papers are not clear on that point.
Bachus says his trouble began on Jan. 21 of this year when he called CSEA headquarters to get information on election procedures with a view to challenging Raucci for the presidency of the local bargaining unit that Raucci ruled, the local that included some 125 janitorial and maintenance workers.
The next day Raucci called him into his office and “indicated that a CSEA local official had contacted him and informed him of Mr. Bachus’ intentions,” which is interesting in itself, that a union official would tip Raucci off to the pending challenge. It harks back to when someone wrote an anonymous letter to CSEA headquarters a few years ago complaining about Raucci’s rule, and right away the letter found its way to Raucci himself, who then allegedly used it as grounds to terrorize the union secretary he thought was responsible, that being Deborah Gray, and her husband, Harold, a maintenance worker.
As suggested by notes later made by Stricos, the human resources director, the letter came back via Michael Campon, a CSEA official who is a friend of Jeff Janiszewski, the president of the Schenectady school board at the time. We don’t know which CSEA official tipped Raucci off about Bachus’ plan to run for president of the janitors’ local.
But in any event, Raucci responded by assigning Bachus to the lowly work of cleaner at the high school and by calling a meeting of his workers at which he “publicly announced in a mocking tone that Mr. Bachus intended to oppose him for the CSEA unit presidency,” according to Bachus’ formal complaint.
He supposedly physically threatened Bachus and declared he would “settle the matter off the clock.”
He also ordered all his employees to write statements describing the meeting they had just witnessed and then read those statements aloud, declaring he would accept only those that he approved.
This was in line with allegations made by other employees in legal complaints of their own, about the psychological warfare tactics that Raucci used, which included bullying dissidents in front of their coworkers and demanding consent.
Bachus says he was eventually interviewed by the investigator the school board hired to look into l’affaire Raucci and reported these incidents, which is interesting too, since it tells us a little tiny something about what might be in the investigator’s report, the one that the school board has resolved to keep secret.
“No corrective action was ever undertaken to remediate Raucci’s conduct toward Mr. Bachus,” the legal complaint says, “nor was any corrective action taken to cure the original unfounded determinations of Stricos and San Angelo,” which seems to indicate that Stricos and San Angelo made some sort of finding against Bachus and in favor of Raucci, though the complaint does not specify what that finding might have been, whether of insubordination or something else.
The lawyer who drew up the papers, James T. Towne Jr., declined my invitation to elaborate.
But the picture that emerges is of an administration that was protective of Steve Raucci, even while having plenty of information about the bullying regime that he ran, and punitive of people who tried to challenge him.
Keep in mind that these events alleged by the Bachuses occurred four years after Raucci was alleged to have terrorized Harold and Deborah Gray, and Deborah Gray’s son, Ryan Rakoske, who was a laborer under Raucci.
Stricos’ handwritten notes of those events, or at least of those allegations, record the vile obscenities that Raucci allegedly used in reference to Deborah Gray and also record the caravan of employees that Raucci led to Saratoga County to see the Grays’ house with “RAT” spray-painted on the side of it. “Drove by house,” Stricos scribbled. “3 vehicles.”
Rakoske claims he reported these incidents not only to Stricos, though that seems to have been hardly necessary, but also to San Angelo, Janiszewski and former Superintendent John Falco in a meeting on May 17, 2005, and that no action was ever taken to rein Raucci in.
So a pattern takes shape, and anyone who wants to argue that Steve Raucci was a rogue employee who operated in a vacuum is certainly welcome to argue it, but please remember, he served purposes beyond the mopping of floors and the turning off of lights at night.
He delivered employees to Janiszewski for such election-time grunt work as stuffing envelopes and working the CSEA phone bank, thus helping pass the school district’s annual budget and elect Janiszewski’s handpicked candidates to the school board.
And in his capacity as union president he kept labor peace, filing not a single grievance during his five- or six-year tenure.
He was useful to the school administration, and he was useful to the school board president.
Did they in turn protect him in his lawless rule as these lawsuits contend? We await a judgment.
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