The Board of Education on Wednesday accepted the retirement of alleged arsonist Steven Raucci, who had been the district’s director of facilities.
Raucci, 60, of Niskayuna, is facing terrorism and arson charges in three counties for allegedly placing explosive devices at people’s homes or cars as part of a pattern of intimidation. Raucci had been suspended without pay from his job since March 2.
The district on Monday received a letter from him requesting retirement.
Board President Jeff Janiszewski said members of the public have asked why the district cannot go forward with termination proceedings rather than accept Raucci’s retirement, thereby denying him benefits.
School Attorney Shari Greenleaf told the board that Raucci has the right to request retirement from the New York State Employees’ Retirement System, which operates independently of the district.
“There’s nothing you can do that will change the outcome,” she said.
When the board votes on retirement resolutions, Greenleaf said, it is merely a bookkeeping matter to keep track of who is employed by the district.
However, usually when the board votes on a retirement, there is also an accompanying resolution to pay out any unused sick days. There was none in Raucci’s case.
Janiszewski said the board is still looking into whether the district owes Raucci anything, but its tentative legal opinion is no.
District retirees also receive health benefits. The contract stipulates that in retirement, the district covers 88 percent of the premium and the employee 12 percent for an individual plan. Those rates are 85 percent and 15 percent, respectively, for a family plan.
Raucci’s pension would not be affected whether he was terminated or retired.
“Someone can be convicted of a criminal act and still collect a pension,” Janiszewski said.
State Comptroller’s Office spokeswoman Emily DeSantis confirmed that an employee’s pension is not affected whether they are fired or retire. “Your benefit is constitutionally guaranteed. Once it’s granted to you it can’t be diminished,” she said.
Raucci’s retirement application was received March 16 and would become effective April 15, DeSantis said. He has a total of 34.78 years worth of service.
DeSantis said Raucci’s pension amount is based on his years of service and what his final average salary was.
Because he has more than 30 years of service to the district, Raucci can collect his full pension even though he is not yet 62. An exact computation of Raucci’s retirement was not available.
On another note, Janiszewski said the district has not yet completed its investigation into workplace misconduct allegedly committed by Raucci, including sexual harassment and demeaning conduct.