One man’s man on trial as another flees

The trial of the notorious Steve Raucci of the Schenectady City School District dropped into low gea

The trial of the notorious Steve Raucci of the Schenectady City School District dropped into low gear at the end of the week, with a state police fingerprint expert spending an interminable time detailing his qualifications, leading me to say, “Oh, boy, they’ve got fingerprints,” only to find out in the end that they did not have fingerprints.

What’s worse, they used to have fingerprints, from a note that was left at one of the bombing scenes, which would have been nice to compare with Raucci’s own prints when he was finally arrested, but they mistakenly destroyed them.

“It was an error on our part,” the expert said. The prints should have been saved because there is no statute of limitations on first-degree arson, with which Raucci was ultimately charged, but they got dumped after five years.

At that point I was ready to close my notebook and go home, which I could soon enough do anyway, since the judge decided to take Friday off.

Even so there were points of interest.

There was the recurring theme of manhood in Steve Raucci’s notes, which dribbled into evidence. The note left at the Rotterdam house he allegedly bombed, for example, said in part: “Your good at harassing our friend because she’s a girl, well let’s see how tough you are dealing with men.”

Which is odd, when you think about it, that someone should regard it as especially manly to sneak around under cover of darkness planting explosives on people’s houses and then running away before he can be confronted.

When a Rotterdam police detective interrogated him about the incident, he credited the detective with being “a man’s man” for persisting and himself with equally being “a man’s man” for admitting nothing.

A little psychology study is waiting to be done there.

Meanwhile I note that Raucci’s supervisor and patron, Superintendent Eric Ely, continues his feverish efforts to get out of town despite having a generous two years to go on his contract, and I can’t say that I blame him, though I do question the tales he has been telling around the country as he tries to get himself hired elsewhere.

One is that this newspaper has a personal vendetta against him because he once had to lay off the wife of a Gazette writer. I believe it’s true that the wife of a writer here once worked at the school district and now works elsewhere, but I believe it’s false that he laid her off. And in any case, that would be of no interest to me or our reporters and not something that we would even have been aware of, as we were not.

To contend that such an obscure little matter has shaped our reporting of Ely’s management of the school district is really a hoot.

I refer not only to an administration that allowed a maintenance worker to impose a reign of terror over other employees, while the superintendent looked the other way, but also to the creation of an artificially inflated contingency budget last year.

I note that Ely is even blogging the local newspapers where he hopes to get hired — in Billings, Mont., Erie, Pa., and Arlington, Mass. — welcoming honest discussion “as a man.” (There’s that theme again.)

Well, let him answer to those folks what action he took after the former athletics director, Gary DiNola, complained to him in November 2006 about Raucci apparently slashing his tires and setting an explosive device on his car. (The answer is nothing.)

Let him answer what he did when a maintenance worker, Danny Bachus, went to him in 2007 with complaints about Raucci’s bullying.

Let him answer what he did when he learned that Raucci led a caravan of workers, on school time and in school vehicles, up to Saratoga County to observe the vandalism of a house belonging to Hal and Debbie Gray, two employees who had crossed him.

The answer in all cases is nothing.

And let him explain why, when Raucci was arrested a year ago, he claimed that he had received only one solitary complaint against him, in the distant past, which was a bald-faced lie.

The truth is he’s trying to get out of town ahead of his contract because, come the May election, if four fresh people get on the school board there is a lively chance they will have the five votes necessary to bring him up on charges and fire him. As simple as that.

I still say he’s lucky he’s not on trial along with Raucci.


You’re probably wondering how I voted in the Dogs of Valor runoff conducted recently by the Humane Society of the United States.

Local interest was intense because one of the 10 finalists in this national competition was from Saratoga Springs, that being an animal described as a “beagle-dachshund mix,” named Porkchop and owned by an elderly couple in the Geyser Crest neighborhood.

Porkchop’s valorous action consisted of barking when his 71-year-old owner collapsed in his backyard on a summer afternoon and became disconnected from his oxygen tank. The barking alerted a neighbor, who saw what was happening and called 911.

This newspaper referred to Porkchop in a headline as “local hero dog,” and the Times Union, concurring, called him “all hero.”

As regular readers know, I have an abiding interest in the imputation of human qualities to dogs, so I looked into the heroic actions of the other nine finalists in this competition, and I was not surprised to learn that they consisted, if not of barking, then of “baying,” “crying” or “howling,” with one case of “scratching feverishly at a closed bedroom door,” and one case of “awakened owner,” with the means of awakening not specified.

In other words, actions that do not seem in and of themselves to require any special valor, not like jumping into a raging river to pull out a drowning child.

A fire breaks out, and a dog barks. As a result of the barking, the family wakes up and manages to escape.

It’s the sort of thing that an observer of average emotional stability might take in stride, but as we know, dog lovers are not celebrated for their emotional stability. On the contrary, they are noted for going into a swoon at the least indication of sensibility on the part of their animals, even if it’s something so slight as examining a patch of yellow snow.

“He thinks it’s a quadratic equation,” they will tell a passerby with the kind of pride they otherwise reserve for the accomplishments of their grandchildren.

That they should consider it heroic for a dog to bark when its house is on fire or when its owner falls down is very much in line with their general approach.

They beam when their dog does nothing more extraordinary than sniff the rear end of another dog. They think it shows great discernment.

As for how I voted myself, well, I missed the deadline, but I will be sure to look for the winner today on the Humane Society’s Web site.

Categories: Opinion

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