Day 14: Ely e-mail told Raucci of probe

Authorities were already deep into an investigation of Steven Raucci in July 2008 when word got back

Authorities were already deep into an investigation of Steven Raucci in July 2008 when word got back to city schools Superintendent Eric Ely, according to e-mails released in court Friday.

Ely passed that information directly to Raucci, according to the e-mail exchange, entered into evidence in Raucci’s terrorism and arson trial.

The information went to Ely after first starting with city schools attorney Anne Jo McTague, who told city school attorney Shari Greenleaf she had “again” heard allegations from the attorney of Ronald Kriss that Raucci is “under a multi-county investigation.”

Greenleaf put the information in e-mail form and relayed it to Ely at 2:06 p.m. July 28, 2008.

Eight minutes later, Greenleaf’s e-mail was in Raucci’s e-mail inbox, sent by Ely.

“Just a heads up on these allegations,” Ely wrote to Raucci. “We need to talk about taking a head on approach pretty soon.”

July 2008 email

To view the email, click HERE.

Raucci responded at 4:18 p.m. He had just spoken with both Greenleaf and McTague. Raucci did not mention whether they told him directly that they had heard of an investigation.

“I did not like the questions nor going into my past on unrelated issues over the past 20 years,” Raucci wrote concerning his apparent questions from the attorneys.

The e-mail exchange came up in court Friday during testimony from state police Investigator Peter Minahan.

Minahan testified on the origins of the investigation into Raucci. He said it began in earnest after the Oct. 1, 2006, vandalism of Ron Kriss’ car.

With Kriss the victim, Kriss’ attorney would be in a position to know about the criminal probe. Kriss also was five months into a federal sexual harassment suit against the district.

Minahan testified that the investigation was difficult. There were several suspected incidents but no discernible pattern.

Kriss was fearful that Raucci would return, so police put a license plate reader in front of Kriss’ Rotterdam home for a couple of weeks. They got nothing.

Then they put a GPS tracker on Raucci’s work truck; again, they got nothing.

Minahan even loaned Kriss a security camera and VCR for his home.

But none of the efforts panned out.

Minahan explained the difficulty of investigating swift acts of vandalism in rural locations.

District Attorney Robert Carney, who is leading the prosecution, emphasized in court the Ely e-mail to Raucci, asking Minahan how such a notification would affect the investigation.

“It was a difficult investigation as it was,” Minahan answered. “If someone gives the target or subject a heads-up, it would complicate it more because he’ll be looking over his shoulder,” Minahan said.

However, regardless of any notification, Raucci allegedly continued talking, especially to his longtime friend, Keith McKenna.

In conversations secretly recorded by McKenna as an informant, Raucci allegedly made crucial admissions that are expected to punctuate the prosecution’s case.

The 61-year-old Raucci, of Niskayuna, is the former facilities supervisor for the Schenectady City School District and former president of the CSEA local unit that represented the workers he supervised.

It was a dual role that the prosecution contends made him invaluable to the school administration, members of which are alleged to have taken no action against him despite complaints from employees of abuse at his hands.

Raucci faces numerous charges ranging from incidents of criminal mischief to weightier felonies of arson and terrorism.

Messages left with a school district spokeswoman for comment from Ely concerning the e-mails were not returned Friday evening.

Ely has been busy interviewing for superintendent jobs elsewhere, including Arlington, Mass. He has also taken pains with media and school districts where he is interviewing to distance himself from Raucci.

In a story published Thursday in the Arlington Advocate, the paper quoted Ely as saying there was little he could do in the face of allegations.

“Was Mr. Raucci hard to get along with? Sure,” Ely told the paper in a phone interview. “The stuff he’s been accused of shocked me. … I never felt threatened by him.”

“Nobody ever had any evidence except for suspicion that anything was going on,” said Ely. “I didn’t have any proof.”

But e-mails placed into evidence Friday show a far closer relationship, one in which Raucci can mention those rumors openly and one in which Raucci suggests that Ely give him the names of those he doesn’t like.

It was a relationship in which Raucci personally guaranteed that Ely had nothing to fear from the school board.

It was also one in which Ely apparently reciprocated in an e-mail sent four days before Raucci’s Feb. 20, 2009, arrest.

February 2009 email

To view the email, click HERE.

“There aren’t many I trust,” Ely wrote Raucci at 8:58 a.m. “You are one. Thank you.”

The e-mails were entered into evidence during questioning of Minahan and former Raucci assistant Patrick Paratore.

Carney read portions of the e-mails aloud, then asked questions.

During one exchange in early February 2008, Raucci rails to Paratore and Human Resources Director Michael Stricos that they could “consider themselves on notice.”

“God help both of you if I find out that you are communicating using some sort of communication in private or that I cannot decipher,” Raucci wrote to Stricos, copying it to Paratore.

February 2008 email

To view the email, click HERE.

Then Raucci added, “even God would not be able to help Pat if he did anything job related and did not inform me. As a matter of fact, Mr. Gray and Mr. Kriss would probably tell you that it could extend beyond just job related.”

By February 2008, Raucci had allegedly already committed multiple acts of vandalism against both Kriss and Hal and Deborah Gray.

Defense attorney Ronald De Angelus has attempted to portray some of the exchanges as Raucci being a braggart, not serious. He also suggested that the e-mails simply showed that Raucci had a good relationship with administrators and were nothing sinister.

Paratore testified that he had to laugh at Stricos’ final response to Raucci, ending, “Please feel free to impose any punishment on Pat deemed necessary.”

Carney has emphasized throughout Raucci’s trial the administrators’ response or lack of response to Raucci’s tirades or insinuations.

Kriss filed a sexual harassment allegation against Raucci in summer 2005. In October 2005, the district was moving to investigate, per its sexual harassment policy.

But Raucci would have none of it. He said so in an e-mail Oct. 19, sent to Stricos and copied to then-Superintendent John Falco, Assistant Superintendent Michael San Angelo and Ely, then an assistant superintendent.

“I will not cooperate throughout this investigation nor will I be subject to the ridiculous and retaliatory actions of an individual who is striving to disrupt the day to day activities and unreasonably interfering with my work performance within this office,” Raucci wrote.

Previous testimony has suggested nothing was done to compel Raucci’s cooperation.

Then, in February 2008, Stricos moved to hold a sexual harassment workshop, e-mailing Raucci on Feb. 14 to confirm a time and date, April 14.

Raucci was initially agreeable, e-mailing on Feb. 18.

But he abruptly changed course March 1.

The e-mail was sent six days after Kriss filed his federal sexual harassment suit against Raucci and the district and the day after an article on the suit was published in The Daily Gazette. It was the first public allegation of any Raucci wrongdoing.

In the e-mail, Raucci rails against the district’s handling of Kriss’ workers compensation case, one in which Kriss won $9,000 and one in which Raucci is now accused of retaliating against Kriss through vandalism. It was the same vandalism that ultimately got the state police involved.

Raucci noted the Kriss case and the district’s handling of an issue involving Hal Gray, writing that “in the long run they have affected not only my professional life but my personal life as well in the forms of extra work, aggravation and grief.”

Raucci then made a decision that he wrote was “truly in the best interests of my union” and canceled the sexual harassment workshop.

Raucci expressed similar sentiments in a March 3, 2008, e-mail to then-school board president Jeff Janiszewski: “From here on, I will do what’s best for me.”

Carney asked Paratore if he ever received an e-mail from administrators chastising Raucci. Paratore said no.

March 3, 2008 email

To view the email, click HERE.

Regarding Raucci’s position as union unit president and his relationship with Stricos, Carney offered an exchange between Raucci and Stricos from late October 2006.

Raucci wrote of an agreement on an issue of changing a cleaner shift, which Raucci agreed to.

“That makes this number 431 on Raucci working ‘outside the box’ on a union issue for the sake of time and money to the District and not necessarily in the best interest of the Union since we’re not asking anything in return,” Raucci wrote.

Stricos gave a one-line response, correcting Raucci on one point.

October 30, 2006 email

To view the email, click HERE.

“I think this is only #429!” Stricos responded.

In an e-mail sent Sept. 2, 2008, Raucci expressed appreciation to Ely. The night before, Ely mentioned Raucci in an appreciation speech.

Raucci praised Ely, saying he likes to “shine in the spotlight” on camera. But Raucci didn’t benefit from being on camera himself.

“With all the people who do not like me out there,” Raucci wrote, “it’s like putting me on ‘Americas Most Wanted.’ ”

Raucci continued, comparing himself and the superintendent, saying they were alike in many ways. Finally, Raucci wrote, they may differ a little.

Raucci then made a reference to the “rumors” that swirled around him.

“According to rumors,” Raucci wrote, “when I don’t like someone, I force them to go away or make them disappear. When you don’t like someone, you have to wait until they die of old age (unless you give me their name).”

That e-mail was sent to Ely and copied to San Angelo and Assistant Superintendent William Roberts and two others. It was also blind copied to the maintenance staff as well as Janiszewski.

Also entered into evidence were two e-mail exchanges from February 2009, the month of Raucci’s arrest.

One began with a Janiszewski e-mail to Raucci. Janiszewski suggested they have coffee. He had complaints about people not being able to get into buildings for night meetings. “We need to liberalize,” Janiszewski wrote.

February 2, 2009 email

To view the email, click HERE.

The next e-mail in the exchange is Raucci writing to Ely.

Raucci chastises Janiszewski for “wanting to ‘liberalize’ and ‘loosen me up.’ ” Janiszewski’s efforts hadn’t worked in the past, Raucci wrote.

Raucci closed the e-mail reminding Ely that Ely had to say what he thought to board members. Ely needn’t worry about the board’s evaluation.

“Screw the evaluation [expletive],” Raucci wrote, “you’re GOLDEN in your position, you have my word. Nothing different than what I promised John when he was in your position and we worked together.”

“John” was an apparent reference to former Superintendent John Falco.

Ely responded an hour later. He was stuck on the concept of Janiszewski trying to “liberalize” Raucci. “Can I watch?” Ely wrote. “You stay just the way you are. Between you and me we can keep the bleeding heart liberals at bay for a while.”

Raucci had a list of issues to deal with before he loosened up, Raucci responded. He listed six, among them Janiszewski. “I’ll even throw in Mr. Bachus, whose life will never be the same no matter what the outcome is with his problems regarding me.”

At that point, Raucci was moving to have James Bachus suspended for 90 days in retaliation for Bachus’ possible challenge to Raucci’s union authority. Bachus had inquired about running for unit president against Raucci.

Ely responded he would “triage them according to their past practice with being nice to me.”

Then, on Feb. 15, Raucci wrote to Ely, upset about comments from Janiszewski related to a newspaper editorial.

Raucci ended that e-mail by reminding Ely that no one was going to have any impact on his position but Ely.

“NEVER underestimate my capabilities and believe me when I tell you that you have something far better than any contract, my word,” Raucci wrote.

Ely responded the next morning, Feb. 16, 2009.

February 16, 2009 email

To view the email, click HERE.

“There aren’t many I trust,” Ely wrote. “You are one. Thank you.”

Four days later, Raucci was arrested.

In June 2009, with Raucci in jail pending trial, the board extended Ely’s contract from 2011 to 2012.

Categories: Schenectady County

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