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What you need to know for 04/27/2017

Threats, anger in Raucci emails

Threats, anger in Raucci emails

The Schenectady school district released nearly 11,000 pages of emails and other confidential docume

The Schenectady school district released nearly 11,000 pages of emails and other confidential documents Monday regarding former employee Steven Raucci, who was convicted last year of placing bombs on cars and at homes to intimidate others, including fellow school employees.

The documents were released as part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by The Daily Gazette and the Times Union after the district refused to release the emails.

From nearly the first email in the file, it was clear that nobody could mess with the contentious Raucci without incurring an angry response, a threat or other attempts at intimidation.

In a series of emails sent March 15, 2005, Raucci laid into then-High School Principal Sullivan Alois for approving overtime for a janitor who was needed during an emergency. He told Alois that, although Alois was in charge of all employees in the building, he could not approve overtime for custodians.

View the emails

To view some of the emails we reviewed Monday, click here and here and here.

Alois responded by listing the reasons why he made the decision, leading Raucci to write that arguing back was unacceptable.

“You have forced this matter to go further than needed, and I will take the necessary steps to see that this is resolved,” he wrote.

Raucci served as facilities manager and as the district’s energy manager, giving him control over who could unlock a building after hours and when the heat got turned on. As supervisor of the maintenance staff, he was also in charge of assigning tasks for repairs and other small jobs, and he also was head of the union that represented the staff he supervised.

During Raucci’s trial, District Attorney Robert Carney suggested top school district officials turned a blind eye to Raucci’s bad behavior because they appreciated his ability to keep his employees from ever fi ling union grievances against the district.

In 600 pages of emails examined on Monday, only once did Raucci immediately agree to a request that fell within his department’s purview.

The rest of the emails detailed his often angry responses, in which he castigated administrators, secretaries and teachers for not asking in the proper way.

They hadn’t filled out the right form, or they had, but they should have called. The angriest emails were reserved for those who dared to ask someone else for help, rather than speaking directly to him. Going to a principal or assistant superintendent was unacceptable.

When Washington Irving Adult and Continuing Education Director Jesse Roylance asked him for help getting rid of several damaged desks, received as part of a shipment of donations from GE, Raucci said Roylance shouldn’t have accepted any furniture without fi rst getting permission.

“I’d like to take the cabinets and dump it on the porch of the person who accepted it,” he wrote.

Roylance calmly told Raucci that there were “a lot of useful items” in the shipment but that a few were damaged because GE had intended to simply toss them into a Dumpster.

Other administrators, like Alois, fought back. Raucci twice announced that he would no longer send emails to Alois, who seemed happy about this. When another administrator tried to keep Alois informed by forwarding Raucci’s emails, Alois told him to stop — and sent a copy of that email to Raucci.

Some administrators handled Raucci by joking with him — Associate Superintendent Arnold Spadafora persuaded Raucci to handle maintenance by making light of those who made the requests. “The natives are getting restless,” he wrote in one email regarding the lack of heat in one of the schools.

Some of Raucci’s own emails included harmless insults, but some also made threats.

On Nov. 3, 2006, he sent an email to consultant and retired Assistant Superintendent James Masi, accusing him of having a “screw Steve” mentality.

He was upset because it was taking longer than expected for his workers to assemble furniture and break down the boxes after they arrived. Masi should have told him that the furniture would arrive in boxes, unassembled, he said.

“Once again, that would lead one to believe you had a ‘screw Steve’ attitude,” he wrote. “On the fl ip side of this update, I should also inform you that I know where you live, what you drive, what you do after you leave work and what you had for dinner last night.”

Masi wrote back to say he found the statement “extremely threatening” and that he would file a formal complaint.

Raucci responded by forwarding the email to Superintendent Eric Ely and writing, “Let’s have a little fun with this.” He said he wanted to see how Director of Human Resources Michael Stricos would handle the situation.

Later that day, he reported via email that Stricos, whom Masi had emailed to get the paperwork to make a complaint, was trying to help Raucci “beat” the complaint.

Raucci said Stricos was a good ally — writing that he had “good allegiance.”

Raucci was convicted of arson and other serious crimes last year. Testimony at trial contradicted the major finding in the district’s internal investigation — that no one told administrators about Raucci’s misdeeds.

An internal report that came to be known as the Rissetto Report, written in 2009, determined that no one knew because employees were afraid to tell on their supervisor.

But during Raucci’s trial, employees who testified told a different story. They described times when they gave administrators clear and specific information about Raucci’s misdeeds.

The district released the consultant’s report detailing the results of the internal investigation, but refused to let the public see the emails and other documents that supported the district’s determination.

The Daily Gazette and the Times Union filed a lawsuit seeking to see those documents, on the grounds that the Freedom of Information Act requires the district to make those public.

SETTLEMENT TERMS

The district and the newspapers came to an out-of-court settlement in which reporters from both papers could read the documents at the district offices starting on Monday. The settlement allowed the district to print out the documents, rather than releasing them in electronic format. Reporters can scan the documents electronically or take notes, but cannot take the documents out of the district offices.

The district will not allow access to the general public. Board President Cathy Lewis said the district was simply giving access to the other groups that asked for the documents.

The documents will be available to the newspapers for 90 days.

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