Schenectady County

Day 6: Witness says fear led to suicide try (with documents)

Greg Zannito testified that he swallowed a handful of pills in a suicide attempt after an argument w

A now-retired city schools carpenter testified Monday that he tried to commit suicide after a 1995 work-related encounter with Steven Raucci.

Greg Zannitto testified he took a handful of pills after Raucci paid an evening visit to his home following a nose-to-nose argument.

“I figured that maybe if I was out of the way, if I wasn’t a problem,” Zannitto said under questioning by Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney before being cut off by an objection from defense attorney Ronald De Angelus.

The Schenectady County Court jury was told by Judge Polly Hoye to disregard the comment on why Zannitto took the pills, which Zannitto described as Tylenol 3 with codeine.

Notes from Raucci’s computer

— Raucci’s account of the dispute with the plumbers (Click HERE).

— Note the message to ALL on page 2, Raucci allegedly reminding his workers about what happened to the two plumbers (Click HERE).

— Raucci noting a message to human resources director Michael Stricos about filling two plumber positions (Click HERE).

Carney had cited in papers last year one witness who was so afraid of Raucci that he attempted suicide.

“At that time, I believed Steve was running the show, he’s the man to reckon with,” Zannitto said. “I didn’t want to make any waves or have any problems.” Zannitto said he couldn’t recall exactly what the argument at work was about, but he remembered Raucci spitting in his face. Raucci turned away and Zannitto spit on the back of Raucci’s head. Then, according to Zannitto, Raucci grabbed him, telling him that he could get even with him or his family at any time. That evening Raucci came to his home and, Zannitto said, let himself inside through a screen door. Raucci commented on his nice home, Zannitto said. Later, Zannitto took the pills. Raucci, 61, of Niskayuna, is on trial on 26 criminal counts ranging from criminal mischief to major felonies of arson and terrorism. He has been held in the Schenectady County Jail, denied release on bail, since his arrest more than a year ago.

Raucci not only served as facilities director at the Schenectady City School District, he also served as president of the CSEA union local that represented the employees he supervised.

He is charged with four separate bombings or attempted bombings, as well as numerous acts of vandalism and intimidation that the prosecution contends were aimed at maintaining and solidifying his position of power in the school district.

The prosecution also alleges that school officials were aware of Raucci’s actions and did nothing about them.

Zannitto’s testimony Monday concerned events that spanned years, from that initial 1995 incident until days before Raucci’s arrest.

Zannitto gave insight into Raucci’s reaction to vandalism at the home of Hal and Deborah Gray in 2005 and Raucci’s anger at then-Athletic Director Gary DiNola.

Zannitto even testified that he saw Raucci with an explosive device in his Mont Pleasant Middle School office sometime in 2008, similar to one shown to him by Carney in an evidence photo.

After the initial 1995 incident, Zannitto said he never challenged Raucci again, even voting for him in the 2001 union election that made Raucci president of the CSEA unit.

Under cross-examination, De Angelus pressed Zannitto on what the 1995 argument with Raucci was about. Zannitto said he wasn’t sure, but he believed it was over a conversation Zannitto had with their boss.

De Angelus also tried to portray Raucci as a friend in the years after that 1995 incident, with Raucci trying to give Zannitto money when his wife was out of work and giving him light duty after an operation.

Zannitto also made foreman during that time, though Zannitto said it was a job no one else wanted. Zannitto said he returned the money, not wanting to feel indebted to Raucci.

“It was a working relationship/possible friendship based on ‘watch yourself, don’t ever say the wrong thing or cross him,’ ” Zannitto said.

Zannitto also told of Raucci’s reaction to May 2005 vandalism of the Grays’ home.

Carney has alleged that Raucci vandalized the Grays’ home in retaliation for an anonymous letter he believed Deborah Gray sent to CSEA officials challenging his leadership and trying to blow the whistle on misdeeds and conflicts of interest.

Zannitto said Raucci’s reaction was not concerned, but more lighthearted.

“ ‘Did you hear what happened to his house?’ or ‘That’s terrible. I guess someone must have gotten even with him. He must have a lot of enemies,’ ” Zannitto quoted Raucci as saying.

The Gray vandalism is the basis of numerous counts Raucci is facing.

Zannitto also gave more insight into the dispute Raucci had in 2006 with DiNola.

There had been issues with the lights on the football field — how long they could be on and who had access to turn them on. Raucci was upset that DiNola went over his head to the superintendent about the problem, Zannitto said.

Zannitto quoted Raucci as saying that DiNola needed to learn a “lesson,” that “he’ll get dealt with.”

Shortly after, on Nov. 30, 2006, an explosive device was left on DiNola’s car at his home and his tires were slashed.

Regarding the explosive he saw Raucci with, Zannitto said it was after a morning meeting. When he walked past Raucci’s office, he said, Raucci had the device in his mouth. Zannitto put his head down and kept walking, he testifi ed.

Zannitto also testified to another disturbing incident on the job that allegedly took place after Raucci became union president and effectively head of facilities.

In that incident, fellow employee Mark Berrian, a mason, became upset that Raucci was going “overboard” with the employees.

Raucci responded by asking everyone in earshot whether they thought the same. Some raised their hands, including Berrian, who asked his fellow employees to tell the truth. Some other hands went up, including those of Bob Nunamacher and Danny Bachus. Zannitto said he went to raise his hand, but thought better about it.

Rules then changed, with Raucci eliminating perks such as birthday parties and lunches in the garage, Zannitto said.

After a further, similar dispute, Nunamacher and another plumber, John Butkus, were laid off. Carney has alleged Raucci went after the civil-service protected Nunamacher, having to take Butkus, as well, by working with school administration to concoct a story of a lack of work.

Zannitto also testified about morning meetings and the meticulous records of those meetings kept by Raucci. Carney showed segments of some of those notes.

In one, dated March 2006, Raucci referred to the Nunamacher and Butkus layoffs.

“That gives me an avenue that is according to Civil Service and CSEA to be able to deal with people like that. It’s call [cq] layoffs due to lack of work,” Raucci said in the meeting, according to Raucci’s notes.

Two new plumbers were hired in September of that year, with Raucci referring to getting “rid of” the two previous plumbers.

Categories: Schenectady County

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