Schenectady County

SCCC hit with pension benefit suit

A retired Schenectady County Community College employee is suing her longtime employer, accusing the

A retired Schenectady County Community College employee is suing her longtime employer, accusing the college of failing to back up an early retirement offer. The result, she alleges, is a significant reduction in her pension.

Deborah Gray filed the suit this week in state Supreme Court in Schenectady County against SCCC and the college’s dean of administration, alleging the school offered her and others early retirement. In her case, though, the college failed to do what was needed to ensure she was eligible.

Gray’s attorney Ronald Dunn put the money lost at thousands of dollars a month in retirement benefits.

“It’s all because of the simple fact that the college did not take the necessary steps to put the program in place,” Dunn said Thursday.

Gray is the same Deborah Gray who was one of the targets of convicted vandal and arsonist Steven Raucci. The Raucci case is referenced in the suit as the source of a disability, post-traumatic stress disorder, that Gray suffered from toward the end of her employment.

Specifically, Gray alleges violations of human rights law, that the college discriminated against her because of her disability, breach of contract and other claims.

Dunn said others were offered the early retirement benefit, but Gray was the only one offered the plan who didn’t receive it. The others were under a different union, which had different requirements for the program, Dunn said. Gray was apparently the only one to apply as a member of CSEA.

A spokeswoman for the college declined to comment on the suit Thursday, saying the college does not comment on personnel matters or pending litigation.

Gray was diagnosed with the post-traumatic stress disorder in 2008, the suit notes. She developed the disorder “as a direct result” of harassment related to the Raucci case.

Raucci, now 64, was convicted after a March 2010 trial of 18 of 22 counts, including first-degree arson for detonating an explosive device on an occupied home. As a result, he is now serving 23 years to life in state prison.

Among Raucci’s victims were Deborah Gray and her husband Harold Gray. Raucci was convicted of vandalizing their home repeatedly and attempting to force Harold Gray from the CSEA union through threats.

Prosecutors alleged Raucci targeted them because he believed they tried to blow the whistle on his dual role as union head and supervisor in the school district facilities department.

About March 2010, the same month as Raucci’s trial, Gray went on paid sick leave in connection with her disability. The disorder made it difficult for her to walk or stand, according to the suit.

That August, she was notified that she was eligible for the early retirement incentive program. By November, she had accumulated a total of 29.3 years of service with the college.

Without the program, Gray wouldn’t have been able to retire without penalty until she hit 30 years of service, a number she was about nine months from achieving.

With the assurances that she was eligible for the early retirement program, Gray retired in December 2010.

In July 2011, though, she was notified that she wasn’t eligible. The reason, the suit contends, is that the college didn’t take all the steps to make her so, including ensuring that the proper resolutions were passed.

Gray is seeking back pay and benefits and pay and benefits going forward to cover the pension she should have been eligible for, as well as other damages.

Harold and Deborah Gray previously filed a suit against the Schenectady City School District related directly to Raucci’s actions. The status of that suit could not be determined Thursday. The Gray’s attorney in that action could not be reached.

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