UPDATE: CSEA union leader grilled by prosecutor at Raucci arson-terrorism trial

Kathleen Garrison was the CSEA official who received an anonymous letter complaining about Raucci.

The defense concluded its case in the Steven Raucci arson and terrorism case today after calling only two witnesses, one of them the CSEA Capital Region president, who was grilled in a blistering cross examination by District Attorney Robert Carney.

Carney suggested the union “stuck its head in the sand” and ignored problems in the unit representing city school district operations and maintenance workers.

Kathleen Garrison was the second witness called by the defense in Raucci’s Schenectady County Court trial, and she testified that an investigation was conducted into Raucci’s dual role as a supervisor and the head of the union local representing the workers he supervised in the city school district.

Nothing was found to be wrong with his two roles, she said.

Email to Stricos

This October 2006 email exchange is between Raucci and Michael Stricos and discusses a shift change at Washington Irving. To read a copy of the email, click HERE.

In documents and e-mails, Raucci bragged to school district administrators about his work with the school district and against union interests and bragged about firing his workers.

Carney read portions of the January 2005 anonymous letter sent to Garrison by anonymous sources and complaining about Raucci’s dual role as supervisor of facilities and head of the local union which represented the workers he supervised.

Garrison said there were changes as a result of the letter. Labor relations specialist Michael Campon was moved from his position because of his relationship with board president Jeff Janiszewski and his own wife’s job at the school.

Carney read an e-mail from Raucci to the school district’s human resources director, Michael Stricos, in which Raucci tells of working with the administration and boasts of a conversation with Campon’s replacement, who allegedly referred to Raucci as “the Godfather” and said Raucci had everyone afraid, including the CSEA.

Garrison said the assessment couldn’t be further from the truth. She also said the Godfather reference was news to her.

Carney pointed out that allegation was also in the earlier anonymous letter.

Anonymous letter

This is the anonymous letter was allegedly sent to the CSEA offices, trying to blow the whistle on Raucci. Click HERE.

At one point, Garrison said she had a hard time believing everyone in the unit was intimidated by Raucci.

Carney read a speech taken off Raucci’s computer. Raucci read it to his workers at a holiday party, according to testimony.

In the speech, Raucci read off a list of names of people he had gotten rid of.

Garrison cross-examination

To read the court stenographer’s transcript of a portion of the testimony, click HERE.

“Does that sound like a speech of a union leader?” Carney asked.

“No it does not,” Garrison responded.

Carney concluded by asking Garrison if she believed CSEA offered adequate representation of the men and women of the operations and maintenance department at the Schenectady City School District.

Garrison she would have to review the files. But, “from my knowledge, I did what I could. We tried to make changes to make the people comfortable.” Carney finally interjected that that wasn’t his question.

He then repeated the original question. “Yes or no?”

“Not from the unit,” Garrison said. “But from the region, I believe they were.” Carney asked if she would agree or disagree that CSEA “stuck its head in the sand” and ignored issues with the unit.

Garrison disagreed.

Defense attorney Ronald De Angelus, in his examination of Garrison, attempted to portray alleged Raucci victims Hal and Deborah Gray as union members who often complained about other members.

De Angelus asked about complaints they made against Joanne DeSarbo, the former Schenectady County CSEA local president, as early as 2000 that he said proved to be unfounded.

’Fear of God’ email

On Aug. 13, 2006, Raucci sent out an e-mail that included Assistant Superintendent Michael San Angelo as a hidden recipient, boasting that a CSEA official said Raucci not only had put the “fear of God” in Hal Gray, but CSEA headquarters as well. To read a copy of the email, click HERE.

Garrison said she met the Grays in person in 2005, the same month of the anonymous letter, and then several times later.

Their complaints were about Raucci holding the dual role of supervisor and head of the union.

Garrison said the issues were investigated, but no problems were found.

“His title was head utility worker, it was clearly a title that was eligible for the bargaining unit,” Garrison said of the CSEA investigation’s conclusions. “The school did give him other duties and compensated him for those duties, but his title never changed.” De Angelus asked if Raucci was ever removed from the bargaining unit as a result of the complaints his dual role.

Garrison said he was not.

Earlier today, retired district HVAC technician Philip Kaufman testified he assisted Raucci in his energy management duties for the Schenectady City School District, checking buildings and the computer system from home.

Raucci also checked buildings and checked the energy computer system from home, he said. He knows that because Raucci would sometimes call him to ask about something and have Kaufman make the changes.

“He used to contact me and say, ‘Hey, Phil, take a look … this doesn’t look right,’ and I would look at home.” Kaufman also testified that Raucci “enjoyed a joke, he enjoyed a laugh, he was fun to be around in the office.” On cross-examination by Carney, Kaufman said others also helped with the energy management duties.

Carney also emphasized Raucci’s calls to Kaufman to fix problems with the system, rather than fixing them himself.

Raucci’s additional job as the school district’s energy manager helped inflate his pay to more than $100,000 a year and, prosecutors contend, was a motive for some of his alleged criminal activities.

Raucci letter to Donahue

Raucci sent this undated letter to Danny Donahue. To read it, click HERE.

The 61-year-old Niskayuna resident is on trial on multiple counts ranging from criminal mischief to weighty charges of arson and terrorism stemming from numerous incidents of vandalism and the placing of bombs at homes and on cars over a period of years.

The prosecution contends that the school district administration ignored complaints about alleged Raucci wrongdoing when they complained about him.

In the afternoon, Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Polly A. Hoye ruled on Raucci’s motions for dismissal of the charges.

Raucci’s attorney, Ronald De Angelus, had made the standard motions, including arguing nuances of definitions. Among his positions is that the city school district is not a unit of government. The terrorism charge against Raucci alleges he acted to coerce action by a government. Hoye ruled that the school district is, in fact, a unit of government.

She noted the defense appeared to concede that in its motions. She also ruled on another related issue, that the jury could consider charges on acts alleged to have occurred in other counties. Charges in the case span Schenectady, Saratoga, Rensselaer and Albany counties.

The jury is expected to make the final determination on jurisdiction.

Jury members are to first answer whether they believe jurisdictional issues have been proven by a preponderance of the evidence. If the answer is no, then they would go no further. If it is yes, then they would decide on Raucci’s guilt or innocense.

The two-step process is to preserve the right to prosecute Raucci in the other counties, should the jury find no jurisdiction in Schenectady County.

Categories: Schenectady County

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