Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney has joined the Schenectady City School District in its effort to block public disclosure of the contents of e-mails between former school district facilities chief Steven Raucci and other district employees and administrators.
The Daily Gazette and the Times Union sued the district to compel it to release a report from an investigation it commissioned into Raucci’s workplace activities. The lawsuit also seeks disclosure of e-mails between Raucci and others over a period of years; many of the e-mails were compiled at Carney’s request. The suit is in state Supreme Court, Schenectady County; arguments may take place as early as this month.
Raucci faces a 26-count criminal indictment charging him with planting explosive devices at the homes and on the vehicles of co-workers and others. He has also been accused of causing two explosions which were fueled by devices with roughly the power of a quarter stick of dynamite.
View documents filed by the school district in this case:
Memo of law, click HERE.
Rachel M. Rissetto affidavit, click HERE.
Robert M. Carney affidavit, click HERE.
Shari Greenleaf affidavit, click HERE.
Patrick J. Fitzgerald affidavit, click HERE.
Carney has, in court papers, said that Raucci’s actions were intended to intimidate district employees. He has also said that district supervisors supported Raucci’s authority, partly because he could ensure labor peace through his role as union president.
In an affidavit filed Wednesday with the school district’s response to the newspapers’ lawsuit, Carney said e-mails between Raucci and others that prove those allegations could hurt the case.
“Although the Schenectady Grand Jury has issued a criminal indictment against Mr. Raucci ... I continue to believe that the disclosure at this time of the e-mails sought in this case could jeopardize the criminal investigation into and prosecution of Mr. Raucci’s conduct,” Carney said.
He also said public disclosure of the e-mails could interfere with a “fair and orderly trial.”
Carney did not oppose the release of the report itself, which relied on personal interviews with district workers. But the school district said in legal papers Wednesday that there are legal reasons to withhold all details taken from the interviews.
Those papers also included a statement from the report’s author, who said that the school district never had any intention to release any portion of the report. Independent investigator Rachel Rissetto submitted an affidavit saying that she never expected her full report to be released verbatim.
At the time Rissetto was hired, the school board was publicly saying it hoped to release as much of the report as possible in the interests of transparency.
Rissetto said in her affidavit that the school board not only promised to keep each employee’s name confidential, but also all information they provided. She said that promise “was essential to my ability to engage in open and candid conversations with these individuals in order to enable me to perform the task for which I was engaged by the school district.”
School attorney Shari Greenleaf said in her own affidavit that the promise was intended to allow employees to avoid disciplinary action if they incriminated themselves in their statements.
Greenleaf and attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who is representing the district, also submitted affidavits arguing that the report can be kept confidential because it was prepared to help the school board make policy decisions and therefore is exempt from provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. They cited several legal decisions protecting the secrecy of documents created for that purpose — even if they were created by an outside agency or individual, as they were in this case.
They also argued that they are entitled under the Freedom of Information Act to withhold any accusations of misconduct made against people who have not yet been disciplined. Therefore, they said, they blacked out all comments that could be interpreted as allegations.
They said that after redacting those comments and comments that identified the speakers — such as their name, title and years on the job — there was nothing left to release. The released version of the report blacked out nearly every line, except page titles and a description of Rissetto’s method of collecting information.