With just a month left until the Schenectady Board of Education election, current school board members agreed to release part of the long-concealed Rissetto Report in an effort to show that they were not at fault for Steven Raucci’s workplace misconduct.
At least a week ago, they agreed in a closed-door meeting to release some of the report today after redacting some names and a section describing how Raucci sexually harassed school district employees, board members said. Fifty-one pages of the 191-page report were released today.
Raucci, 61, of Niskayuna, the school district’s former facilities director and also head of the union unit representing his workers, was convicted by a Schenectady County Court jury on April 1 of 18 out of 22 allegations contained in a grand jury indictment. He was found guilty of charges ranging from criminal mischief to first-degree arson and faces the possibility of a lengthy prison term when he is sentenced on June 1.
View Rissetto Report
To view the Rissetto Report, click here.
To view today’s school board’s statement, click here.
When the report was placed on the district’s Web site this morning, board President Maxine Brisport said it would exonerate the board of all allegations that board members aided Raucci or chose to look the other way while he intimidated employees.
“Anyone who reads this report should see the board did not know what was going on,” she said. “The staff did not tell us [about Raucci’s misdeeds].”
The report emphasized that employees felt too afraid to report Raucci, and that they lied when asked about him during a school district investigation.
But the report also said board member Jeff Janiszewski knew that Raucci was inappropriately using district resources to help certain board members get elected.
Rachel Rissetto, who was hired by the school board to investigate Raucci’s workplace misconduct and any role played by school officials, noted in the report that Janiszewski, who was then board president, sent an e-mail to Raucci telling him that employees who help with the school board campaigns must be working on their own time and cannot be pressured to volunteer.
Rissetto said she found no evidence that Janiszewski or Superintendent Eric Ely knew Raucci was making employees do the work during school time, and giving them overtime pay when they worked on the campaigns after school hours.
“The e-mails do confirm, however, that they were fully aware of Mr. Raucci’s involvement in the Board of Education elections/budget votes,” she wrote.
At Raucci’s criminal trial, a principal testified he told Ely that Raucci directed a school janitor to do elections work on school time. Several e-mails supporting his statements were introduced.
Although Rissetto did not cite those e-mails, she said it was inappropriate for Janiszewski and Ely to allow Raucci to use the district e-mail system for election campaigns. She cited state law, including a court decision specifying that school officials cannot even “tacitly permit” others to use district communication systems and other resources for campaigns.
Rissetto said their actions gave “an appearance of impropriety” and might rise to the level of a violation.
Brisport did not directly comment on that, saying that the board had agreed only to talk about Rissetto’s recommendations.
But Brisport acknowledged that the report didn’t exonerate all board members.
“At least it shows this board member did not know,” she said, referring to herself. “My name, other than on the front page, is not in there.”
Brisport is running for re-election, a point she stressed repeatedly during an interview about the report.
Janiszewski, who has not yet said whether he will run for re-election, did not immediately return calls for comment.
As expected, the portions of the report released provided far fewer details about Raucci than did his trial; it merely lists quotes from employees who say he threatened their families, made them believe they would lose their jobs if they complained about him, and “tapped” or grabbed their genitals frequently.
The employees are listed by name only at the start of the report, and no quotes are attributed to anyone. The names were blacked out in the version of the report made public Friday.
Board members initially said the entire report had to be kept secret to protect those employees’ identities. They also said the report could compromise the criminal case against Raucci, but District Attorney Robert Carney asked them only to withhold the e-mails that Risotto gathered as additional evidence.
Those e-mails were not released today, although Raucci’s trial ended with his conviction two weeks ago and Carney said he no longer needs those e-mails to be kept secret.
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Categories: Schenectady County