Former Schenectady City School District Superintendent Eric Ely supported Steven Raucci even before he became superintendent, giving him advice as he tried to persuade a principal to set aside what her contract said and let Raucci have more authority, according to emails released by the Schenectady City School District.
Read Steve Raucci’s emails by clicking HERE
Raucci, the district’s head of facilities, was fighting with Principal Barbara Coffey, who had told a custodian to clean areas that Raucci had instructed the worker to ignore.
Coffey insisted that her contract gave her the authority to change her custodian’s job duties without Raucci’s approval. He responded by using his contract to keep one custodial position vacant for months.
Raucci is now serving 23 years to life in prison after a Schenectady County Court jury convicted him of placing explosives on vehicles and homes in a campaign of intimidation against school employees, some of whom had tried to challenge his authority, and others whom Raucci perceived as enemies or enemies of his friends.
Coffey wasn’t intimidated by Raucci, going so far as to write an email to her building staff explaining that Raucci’s “inflexibility” was to blame for the understaffed cleaning department.
Raucci called her staff email “a low blow,” but she wasn’t impressed.
“Steve, this is almost like a power struggle around who is in charge. We really shouldn’t have to go there,” she wrote.
Raucci responded by saying he understood she was in charge of her building — but then added that if she wasn’t going to back down, he wouldn’t either.
“I’m only working within the guidelines of the Operations and Maintenence Contract,” he wrote, mimicking her explanation for why she was able to change schedules without his approval.
Coffey went to Ely, who had been named the district’s next superintendent but was four months away from his official promotion.
She asked him to approve her decision regarding the custodian. According to an email she wrote to her staff, she did not get an answer, but presumed that silence meant her decision stood.
Ely wasn’t staying out of the fight, though.
On the one occasion where Raucci asked Ely for help, he got immediate advice.
Two minutes after Raucci sent an email about planning a face-to-face meeting with Coffey, Ely wrote back to say, “I would strongly discourage you from meeting with her in her building. She needs to come to the ‘mountain.’”
It’s not clear exactly what Raucci said to Coffey during the meeting, but seven days later she wrote him an email thanking him for filling the vacant custodial position at her school.
Raucci forwarded her email to Ely with the following message: “This is the result of working outside the ‘contractual language.’”
He proudly reported that he had persuaded Coffey to stop insisting on her union rights in situations involving Raucci.
He referred indirectly to the situation again a few weeks later, when Coffey asked for permission to have GE volunteers paint part of the school.
“What we have here is a perfect example of what I was trying to convey to you with regard to ‘living’ by the language in our contracts [yours & mine],” Raucci wrote. “If you had prevailed in that matter, the answer here would be simple. No they can not paint in or around any of our buildings.”
His workers had the union right to keep that job to themselves, he explained.
But, he went on, she now understood that “many of the matters and concerns I address with you and hundreds of others in the District are not always according to contract.”
“My belief is as long as all involved are contented and it does not adversely affect the [maintenance crew] contract, I have no problem ‘bending the rules’ on occasions.”
He told her it was a “delicate matter” that should not be discussed in email, and they set up a time to meet in person.
Coffey, who still works for the district, could not be reached for comment.
In other emails, Raucci wrote to Assistant Superintendent Michael San Angelo and admitted that he was ignoring district rules.
He said he would not enforce “minor” rules regarding timesheets and attendance sheets.
“I’m not able to control a unit as tough as [Operations and Maintenance] by being passive and always operating according to district procedures,” he wrote.
Raucci’s emails are being released by the school district under the terms of a lawsuit settlement with The Daily Gazette and the Times Union.