A former city school district employee has won a workers’ compensation claim against the district over allegations made against Steven Raucci, according to a court filing this week.
Ryan Rakoske was awarded just under $5,000 for mental stress and injuries he said he sustained as an employee under Raucci. The compensation award was revealed in a court filing this week in support of Rakoske’s attempt to file a lawsuit against the district in state Supreme Court.
Also included in that filing were handwritten notes from the district’s head of human resources that appear to show corroboration of Rakoske’s claims by other employees.
Rakoske won a total of 15 weeks of workers’ compensation relating to his claim of misconduct by Raucci in 2005. Raucci was the school district’s buildings and grounds supervisor until his retirement soon after his arrest on charges of arson and terrorism earlier this year.
A judge for the state Workers’ Compensation Board, according to a filing by Rakoske’s attorney, John Hoke, found a “causal relationship between Steven Raucci’s workplace conduct and the injuries sustained by [Rakoske].”
The decision was filed earlier this month by the state Workers’ Compensation Board and is referenced in papers filed this week in state Supreme Court in Schenectady County related to Rakoske’s attempt to sue the district over Raucci’s alleged conduct. The decision does not mention Raucci directly.
Rakoske wants to sue the school district, alleging he was a target of repeated sexual and other harassment from Raucci, then his supervisor with the district.
At issue in the current Supreme Court action by Rakoske is whether he can file suit despite the apparent failure to meet a deadline. Rakoske is arguing that the deadline passed long before Raucci’s February 2009 arrest on arson and terrorism charges and he didn’t feel safe to sue until Raucci was in jail.
The workers’ compensation claim, and a crucial 2005 meeting with district officials, provide proof that the district was made aware of the allegations against Raucci in a timely manner, Rakoske contends.
Rakoske contends he was forced to leave his employment with the district in spring 2005. He subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim then but withdrew it in summer 2005 after threats of physical violence and actual retaliation against his mother, according to the new filing.
The withdrawal of the claim in 2005 “strongly supports the argument … because it clearly illustrates that the duress caused by Raucci’s conduct directly affected [Rakoske],” Hoke wrote.
Rakoske was awarded workers’ compensation because he showed his emotional injuries were the result of Raucci’s workplace violence, Hoke wrote.
TIES TO CIVIL SUIT
Rakoske is the son of Deborah Gray and stepson of Hal Gray. His mother and stepfather were also the alleged victims of retaliatory vandalism. Deborah Gray made multiple 911 calls between 2005 and 2009 where she “screamed in fear of her life” when she believed she was about to be the victim of a violent crime, according to the filing.
Rakoske, formerly a laborer with the school district, is one of four people attempting to sue the district under a similar argument. A fifth, Joseph Scotti, has withdrawn his application.
Identified in the papers as potential plaintiffs are Rakoske, Harold and Deborah Gray and Laura Balogh.
Each had positions in either the school district or the local CSEA union. The Grays were victims in several reported vandalism acts at their Saratoga County home.
Balogh was the alleged victim of a January 2007 attempted bombing in Schodack.
Among the allegations from those looking to sue was that city school district officials, including the school board president and then-superintendent, were aware of allegations of physical assaults, vandalism and verbal threats against employees from Raucci as early as May 2005 but did nothing.
The school district’s attorney has argued in his own papers that Raucci‘s alleged actions were separate from the district.
Allegations of vandalism, derogatory comments and harassing phone calls, the attorney wrote, “clearly fall outside the scope of his employment” and the school district can’t be held liable.
In criminal indictments, Raucci is accused of placing incendiary devices at four homes around the Capital Region, two of which exploded. He is also accused of damaging the cars and homes of people who disagreed with him, slashing tires, damaging paint or damaging windshields. One couple, the Grays, reported their car being vandalized five times.
Raucci is currently being held at the Schenectady County Jail without bail.
Rakoske has argued in a previous filing that he tried to blow the whistle in a May 17, 2005, meeting with district officials. The meeting was nearly four years before Raucci’s arrest in February 2009.
His filing claims that at the May 2005 meeting were school district Human Resources Director Michael Stricos, Assistant Superintendent Michael San Angelo, then-superintendent John Falco and school board President Jeffrey Janiszewski. Falco left the district in January 2006.
Nothing happened as a result of the meeting, Rakoske said in papers.
Among Rakoske‘s allegations were that Raucci used a staff meeting to belittle his mother and stepfather using inappropriate language.
Rakoske also reported that he saw Raucci in a caravan of three or four school district vehicles traveling from the housing development where the Grays lived, 15 miles from the nearest city school district facility.
Rakoske said he was going to his mother’s home to clean up fresh vandalism when he said he spotted Raucci.
Hoke also argued that Stricos was well aware of the allegations in 2005, as evidenced by notes written by Stricos of his investigation into the workers’ compensation case filed by another employee, Ronald Kriss; Kriss is currently suing in federal court. Hoke also represents Kriss.
In his testimony, Stricos said he completed an investigation and found the allegations without merit, according to the filing.
But Hoke also included the handwritten notes from Stricos, obtained as part of the Kriss case. The notes, Hoke argues, show that not only did Rakoske report the allegations but at least two other employees corroborated them.
The notes, which are difficult to read, appear to support that the two employees backed up the allegations.
The same employees filed affidavits in the Kriss case — before Raucci’s February arrest — categorically denying seeing anything inappropriate or experiencing any inappropriate behavior from Raucci.
Attorneys for the district made a motion last month to withdraw those affidavits, a motion the federal judge granted. The attorneys did not give a reason for the move.