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What you need to know for 10/22/2017

District refuses to release records

District refuses to release records

Copies of e-mail correspondence between suspended city schools Facilities Director Steven Raucci and

Copies of e-mail correspondence between suspended city schools Facilities Director Steven Raucci and his employees, as well as paperwork relating to any misconduct findings against him, cannot be released, district officials said.

District Freedom of Information Officer Richard Yager has denied requests by The Daily Gazette for the records, arguing that they would “interfere with a law enforcement investigation” and “deprive a person of a right to a fair trial.”

However, Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the state’s Committee on Open Government, on Monday said he believed the district would have to release the records.

The items, he argued, are irrelevant to judicial proceedings.

“In my opinion, this has nothing to do with any criminal proceeding,” Freeman said.

An appeal has been filed.

The Daily Gazette requested paperwork related to any misconduct findings against Raucci after his Feb. 20 arrest. He faces top-level arson and terrorism counts.

Raucci, 60, of Niskayuna, has since been charged in two other cases and he is suspected in more than a dozen. He has been accused of placing incendiary devices at people’s homes or on their cars in 2001, 2006 and 2007. No one was injured.

Police have also said a incendiary device was found in his Mont Pleasant Middle School office after his arrest.

The school district last week announced plans for an independent investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct by Raucci and any supervisor who covered up his alleged activities.

Schools Superintendent Eric Ely previously said there was nothing in Raucci’s record to show similar allegations. He also said Raucci did not have a lot of formal complaints lodged against him. Ely himself could only remember one specific allegation against Raucci, in 2004.

The Daily Gazette also requested the e-mails after allegations were made of a hostile work environment created by Raucci.

Asked about the school district’s response Monday, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney agreed that release of the information could negatively affect the investigation. Interviews are ongoing, he said. Carney’s office is prosecuting the case.

Raucci’s attorney Ronald DeAngelus, on Monday claimed that any e-mails sent by Raucci were copied to other school officials. He said he couldn’t speak to specific e-mails.

Raucci remains at the Schenectady County Jail without bail. DeAngelus noted Monday they do not intend to revisit the bail issue until after indictments are reported.

Carney has already outlined in court paperwork a host of allegations against Raucci, including harassment of employees by “anonymous” e-mails and other means. Also included in the paperwork was an alleged sexually harassing letter on school district letterhead. The letter had a list of offensive requirements.

E-mails to employees

E-mails obtained by The Daily Gazette through a district employee appear to have been sent from Raucci’s district account to “custodians.”

By one estimate, Raucci supervised as many as 85 custodians and cleaners. Another estimate has the total employees under him at 125.

The e-mails conclude with “Steve Raucci,” his titles as facilities supervisor and energy manager. His office phone, fax and e-mail address are also included.

In a Nov. 6, 2008, e-mail to custodians, Raucci reiterates an earlier directive that early morning custodians are not to let in anyone, including kitchen staff.

“If you fail to follow the above,” Raucci allegedly wrote, referencing his instructions, “you have not only failed to follow my directive, but also created a situation that forces me to act in a way that creates much more work for me. Do not afford yourself this situation.”

He returned to the issue and others in a Nov. 23 e-mail, noting a custodial meeting the week before.

His directives must be followed, Raucci wrote, and, because he had been made to look “foolish” by some custodians, he wasn’t approaching the matter lightly.

“I can not make this subject matter any easier than this,” he wrote. “Although I have lost most if not all confidence in many of you, some of you remain loyal and perform your duties without question or hesitation.”

He concluded that e-mail by asking the custodians to reflect on what he said and “at the very least have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.”

Jan. 2 brought two e-mails, one on paycheck pickup and another on an apparent problem with missing custodial equipment.

In the first, Raucci wrote paychecks would be delivered as usual during the winter break. He concluded, “God help the one who screws this up.”

In the other Jan. 2 e-mail, Raucci references an apparent problem with missing custodial equipment, saying that anyone caught with equipment without authorization would be subject to discipline including dismissal.

“If for any reason this email is taken lightly,” Raucci allegedly wrote, “then he or she will be in for a rude awakening if this message is not heeded.”

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