Steven Raucci cut the heat to a classroom this past winter in retaliation against an employee who challenged Raucci’s union supremacy, according to the latest lawsuit filed against the Schenectady City School District.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court by district utility worker James D. Bachus and his wife, teacher Barbara Bachus.
In the suit, the Bachuses allege that Raucci, who was the district’s head of building and grounds, moved to retaliate against James Bachus by targeting Bachus’ wife. James Bachus made moves in January to challenge Raucci in the CSEA Local 847 leadership elections.
Raucci quickly found out, according to the suit, and among his responses was to refuse to supply heat to Barbara Bachus’ classroom “causing the room to be extremely cold during the winter months; jeopardizing the health of Mrs. Bachus, as well as the students in attendance,” the lawsuit reads.
The allegations are some of the first to be made that Raucci’s alleged behavior directly affected students.
The suit also includes allegations that Raucci publicly confronted James Bachus about Bachus’ union plans at an employee meeting Jan. 22, the day after Bachus asked the CSEA how to go about running.
The confrontation also included an alleged physical threat, which Bachus pointed out to the group.
“Raucci continued by stating in mocking and exaggerated terms that there were no witnesses who would support Mr. Bachus and that Raucci could say what he wanted and there was nothing anyone could do about it,” the suit reads.
According to the lawsuit, Raucci sent James Bachus to do menial work, threatened his wife “using graphic language” and 15-year-old son and even had James Bachus disciplined for “insubordination” apparently related to a medical leave by Bachus brought on by the confrontation.
Raucci was arrested Feb. 20, apparently before his alleged effort to get Bachus suspended could succeed.
Raucci is facing charges of arson and terrorism for what authorities say was a variety of acts of intimidation targeting people he perceived as his enemies.
Regarding the alleged heat outage, the suit does not specifically say the duration of the outage, only saying it happened “while Mr. Bachus was on medical leave.” James Bachus was on leave nearly continuously from Jan. 22 to March 6.
National Weather Service records show the outdoor air temperatures from Jan. 22 to Feb. 12, a day James Bachus briefly returned, ranged from a high of 47 degrees Thursday, Feb. 12, to a high of only 16 degrees, Thursday, Feb. 5. The readings were taken at the Albany Airport.
Raucci was arrested Feb. 20 and charged with placing incendiary devices at four homes around the Capital Region. Two of the devices exploded, but no one was injured in the explosions. 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 reported their car being vandalized five times.
He is also accused of having an explosive device at his office in Mont Pleasant Middle School.
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney has alleged that “higher ups” in the school district were “beholden” to Raucci.
According to the suit, Bachus suffered a rapid heart beat and stress exacerbated by Raucci’s conduct in the alleged Jan. 22 confrontation.
James Bachus, a 29-year veteran of the district, returned to work Feb. 12 but was again placed on menial work that he had performed only once ever prior to the confrontation. As a result of “emotional trauma and humiliation,” Bachus took additional medical leave from Feb. 12 to March 6.
The Jan. 22 allegations, the suit reads, were reported to district officials four days later. Those officials included Human Resources Director Michael Stricos and Assistant Superintendent Michael San Angelo.
Superintendent Eric Ely was contacted directly Feb. 2 by Barbara Bachus’ teachers union representative about the “direct physical threat” to her, according to the lawsuit.
The allegation appears to be at odds with a statement by Ely in the days following Raucci’s Feb. 20 arrest — that Ely could remember only one specific allegation in 2004 when an employee came into his office expressing concern about something that happened at his house concerning Raucci.
Unclear is whether the classroom heating issue was brought to the attention of administrators. The suit does not appear to address that issue.
The complaint relating to the Jan. 22 allegations was apparently investigated, with Raucci providing “selected individuals” for Stricos to speak with. By Feb. 9, Bachus was informed he would be disciplined, according to the lawsuit.
Ten days later — the day before Raucci was arrested — Raucci requested of Ely that James Bachus be suspended for 90 days. As union head, Raucci was also in the position to represent Bachus on the union end, the suit notes.
Following Raucci’s arrest, Bachus gave Stricos a medical excuse justifying his absence, but Bachus contends Stricos responded by “laughing in Mr. Bachus’ face.”
The district Board of Education in June extended Stricos’ contract one year to 2011 in a move that drew criticism.
The Bachuses’ suit now brings the total number of individuals suing or trying to sue the district to nine.
The legal wrangling has been the source of several allegations against the district, including that the district knew of allegations against Raucci as early as 2005 but did nothing.
Representing the Bachuses is attorney James T. Towne Jr. He could not be reached for comment Monday. Towne is a member of the same firm, Towne, Bartkowski & DeFio Kean, as attorney John Hoke, who is representing several others suing or trying to sue the district.
School district spokeswoman Karen Corona said the district had no comment on pending lawsuits, referring questions to attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald III.
In a statement earlier this month, Fitzgerald said the claims would be vigorously defended, and he was confident the district would be successful.
The district has conducted its own independent investigation of the general workplace allegations against Raucci.
Bachus, according to the suit, was interviewed for that investigation. He was also interviewed about “other incidents he witnessed.”
Results of the district’s investigation, however, will not be released, based on Fitzgerald’s advice to the district.
One of the couples trying to sue, Harold and Deborah Gray, have alleged in their own paperwork that their troubles with Raucci began with another challenge to Raucci’s union authority. An anonymous letter to the CSEA in January 2005 described Raucci’s leadership of the local as being like “an organized crime family.”
Raucci concluded the letter was written by Deborah Gray and a series of vandalism and threats ensued, according to the allegations.