Supt. Ely was Raucci’s informant

Ladies and gentlemen, I have long believed based on the evidence that Schenectady school Superintend
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Ladies and gentlemen, I have long believed based on the evidence that Schenectady school Superintendent Eric Ely protected the school’s head maintenance man, Steve Raucci, who is accused of arson and terrorism, but I admit I was flabbergasted when it emerged in court the other day that he had actually tipped Raucci off to the criminal investigation against him.

He found out about it and gave him a whistle.

What happened was, a former employee, Ron Kriss, was suing the school district over alleged sexual harassment (crotch-grabbing) by Raucci.

The district’s insurance company hired a lawyer, Anne-Jo McTague, of the Albany firm of Maynard O’Connor Smith Catalinotto to defend it, and in the course of business she learned that Raucci was under criminal investigation.

When I reached her by phone after court, at home, she said she wasn’t sure if the information was in a legal filing prepared by Kriss’ lawyer, John Hoke, or if she heard it from Hoke in a conference call, but in any event, “I felt it was my duty to inform them [the school district] that these things were in the complaint,” so she notified the school attorney, Shari Greenleaf.

Greenleaf, in turn, sent an e-mail to Superintendent Ely: “Sorry to send you messages during your vacation & Anne Jo McTague again heard allegations that Steve R is under a multi-county investigation (from Ron Kriss’ lawyer) so she wanted to meet with Steve to learn if there is anything new that she needs to know about …”

Raucci emails

To read the emails and other court documents, click HERE.

That was on Mon., July 28, 2008, at 2:06 p.m. Eight minutes later, Ely forwarded the alert to Raucci and said, “Just a heads up on these allegations. We need to talk about taking a head on approach pretty soon.”

Now, when a Schenectady police officer, Mike Hamilton was convicted a few years ago of alerting one of his drug informants to an investigation, he was sentenced to 4 1⁄2 years in prison for it.

When another Schenectady police officer, Chris Maher, admitted to tipping off a gambling friend to an investigation of a couple of bookies, which allowed the bookies time to destroy gambling records, he got just a slap on the wrist, a $250 fine plus some departmental discipline.

But any way you slice it, it’s verboten to disclose an investigation, and now I wait to see what if anything happens to Superintendent Ely, who has been telling school boards around the country, as he desperately looks for a new job, that he had no idea what was going on with Steve Raucci and that in any event an internal investigation cleared him, which is a lie on top of a lie.

Raucci avoided detection for a long time (if he indeed was the person setting explosives and vandalizing houses and cars) in part because the crimes were committed in different jurisdictions — Rotterdam, Clifton Park, Colonie, Burnt Hills, Schodack — and no one was putting the pieces together. Then in 2007 the state police got involved, and that’s when there developed a “multi-county investigation,” which finally ensnared him.

That’s what Ely got wind of, and that’s what he alerted Raucci to.

Do think it’s unusual that a school superintendent would be on such cozy terms with the kind of weirdly belligerent guy that Raucci is finally revealed to have been?

Well, you don’t know the half of it, and neither did I till I started reading the e-mails that have been introduced into evidence in the trial.

Here is one that Raucci wrote to Ely on Sept. 4, 2008, that is, about a month and a half after Ely tipped him off and two months after he had allegedly trashed the house and vehicles of two of his detractors who lived in Burnt Hills:

“I have often told you that you and I are alike me [sic] in many ways, we just have different backgrounds. We both like to win and we do not care how we do it as long as we win. We both tell it like it is and if someone doesn’t like what we say, that’s too damn bad. If we do not like someone we let them know about it and usually do something about it. There we may differ a little. According to rumors, 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.)”

Cute, no? Especially the sly insinuation that Raucci can take care of Ely’s enemies for him.

Here’s an excerpt from one that Raucci wrote to Ely on Feb. 15, 2009: “I have never seen a Superintendent in our District who speaks so openly and without any hidden agenda’s & NEVER underestimate my capabilities and believe me when I tell you that you have something far better than any contract, my word.”

And here, in full, is what Ely responded the next day: “There aren’t many I trust. You are one. Thank you.” Which is actually my favorite and which I intend to frame and put on the wall of my cubicle.

It was written on Feb. 16, 2009, the day that Raucci made his final attack (allegedly) on the residence of Hal and Debbie Gray in Burnt Hills, splashing their front door with yellow paint.

Four days later he was arrested, and Ely began saying he had no clue.

With other administrators Raucci was less sycophantic (the mode of the coward) and more belligerent (the mode of the bully).

When Michael Stricos, the head of human resources for the school district, tried to cover the district’s legal butt by setting up a sexual-harassment workshop, for example, Raucci at first said fine, but then irked by what he thought was the district’s coddling of his enemies, he changed his mind and e-mailed Stricos: “Now I am making a decision that is in truly my best interest and my union. I am withdrawing my response below declining the sexual harassment workshop on April 14 for my office staff.”

Which was in line with his earlier response to the district’s proposed investigation of the sex harassment charges: “I will not cooperate throughout this investigation …”

They didn’t tell him, he told them.

And here’s one that’s really telling. When poor admiring Stricos (he’s the one who presented Raucci with a Godfather picture) sent an e-mail to one of Raucci’s subordinates, Pat Paratore, inquiring about some matter or other, this is the response he got from Raucci, dated Feb. 9, 2008:

“First, why are you looking for Pat when everything in this office and department filters through me.

“Secondly, God help both of you if I find out that you are communicating using some sort of communication in private or that I can not decipher.

“Third, 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 be able to tell you that it could extend beyond just job related.”

The reference at the end apparently being to the puncturing of tires and splashing of paint that both Hal Gray and Ron Kriss had experienced after getting on Raucci’s bad side. Repercussions “beyond just job related.”

Raucci didn’t try to hide these things from the school administration; he boasted of them, at least indirectly. And most of his e-mails he blind-copied to other administrators, including Ely.

Can you think of another organization, public or private, where an employee would be able to talk like that to his nominal superiors?

Can you think of another organization where the chief executive would express his singular trust in such an employee and alert him when the cops got on his trail?

It’s why I say I didn’t know the half of it. And the trial isn’t even over yet.

Categories: Opinion

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