The man convicted of setting explosives in a campaign of intimidation was also a smooth talker to his female employees, according to emails released by the Schenectady City School District.
Emails between former district facilities director Steven Raucci and his secretary, Barbara Tidball, revealed a man who was demanding and controlling — to the point where he tried to make sure his female employees didn’t give their husbands more attention than they gave him, even on weekends.
But he was also, at times, encouraging and supportive when the person in question was a woman whom he liked.
Tidball poured her heart out to Raucci after he promoted her from back-breaking custodial work to a secretarial position in his office.
When she confessed anxiety, fears and self-doubt, he responded with pages of encouragement and praise.
View the emails
To view some of the emails we reviewed Tuesday, click here.
“It takes a lot of time and patience to learn what you do ‘naturally.’ And even with time and experience some people still never learn,” he wrote her on June 15, 2008, after she told him she felt unimportant. “You, on the other hand succeeded from the get go without training or experience whatsoever simple because it was natural for you.”
When she was anxious, he suggested she smoke marijuana. When she was lonely, he invited her to parties.
She thanked him for her promotion, saying that in her new job as his secretary, she had found unexpected happiness and fulfillment in using her brain, rather than her hands. She also repeatedly thanked him for his support, telling him he had no idea how much it meant to her.
Most notably, on several occasions, she apparently walked into his office and scolded him for behaving poorly. He wrote long, flowery apologies, referencing what she had said and telling her she was right. Often he also mentioned her beauty, which he said was her best trait and the reason why he’d promoted her.
“It’s been bothering me every time I think about how rough (mean) I was to you this afternoon,” he wrote on Dec. 19, 2008. “I did the cardinal sin, I rained on someone’s parade.”
He told her then that she should try harder to rein him in — even hitting him, if she had to, to get his attention.
In contrast, in more than 900 pages of emails to other employees, the mere suggestion that he was wrong led to a furious outburst.
But Tidball could calm him down with a sentence.
When he sent angry threats to Associate Superintendent Gary Comley in September 2008, after Comley told custodians to leave a door at the high school unlocked during evening events, Tidball interceded. After Raucci wrote that he would find a “total solution” for Comley, she wrote, “Hey Steve … ya know how you tell me to ‘always have your back’? Well, don’t bring that thing to work, kay?”
He did not get angry. Instead, he thanked her, writing that she was his “guardian angel.”
Neither went into any more detail about what he might have brought to the school, but when he was arrested five months later, investigators found a small explosive device in his office.
Tidball testified last year that she had seen Raucci with explosive devices similar to those used in cases where Raucci was convicted of bombing or attempting to bomb property.
Before he was arrested, Raucci also showered her with personal compliments and praised her physical appearance. He went so far as to compare her to his wife, Shelley — and to compare himself to her husband, Mark.
“I always tell Shelley she’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” he began in one email about his wife. “In the past year I have also told her you were the best thing that happened to me since I’ve taken over this department.”
Tidball responded, “Thank you, really thank you. You have no idea how much that means to me and when things are bad here, it really really sucks. You are a good talker Steve, you really should do it more.”
But he did not confine himself to work-related compliments.
On several occasions, he suggested that he had a husband-like relationship with her.
Once, he told her he was “territorial,” writing, “You made mention that you felt that not everyone sees you as I do as far as appearance go. You said because I know you so well I see you differently. My response to that is good! I’m territorial too!”
In another email, he wrote that he would wear shorts to a party — “since I believe I have better legs than Mark.”
He told her that although Mark was her husband, she was there for him during the workday.
He also emailed her husband, who was working for him at the time, telling him the same thing and boasting about what he could give Tidball.
He said his workers plowed Tidball’s driveway “whenever she wants” and that “skilled craftsmen” had been sent to her home to turn off her daughter’s curling iron.
He also emphasized that he took her out to breakfast every day and let her “get away with murder” during office hours.
“She goes to breakfast and coffee with her boss and his staff for an hour or so. Immediately after that she comes back and goes to lunch. She does crossword puzzles when she’s bored, uses her computer to scan the internet, takes a cigarette break anytime she pleases,” he wrote.
Mark Tidball wasn’t the only man that Raucci felt was taking attention away from “the boss.”
He once emailed his head custodian, Joanne Puleski, on a Saturday afternoon after she ignored repeated phone calls.
“What the [expletive] is going on,” he wrote. “My patience is not very long. You phone constantly goes to voice mail and Dutch’s too.”
She wrote back the next day to explain that she and her husband Dave had gone away for the weekend.
Raucci wasn’t mollified.
“Remember, Dave’s not the only guy in your life!” he wrote in an email that he also sent to Tidball and another employee, identified only as Debbie.
He made reference to the TV series “Charlie’s Angels” to explain their relationship with him.
“Did you forget our agreement and understanding when you, Barbie [Tidball] and Debbie were in my office a few months ago?” he wrote. “ ‘Once upon a time, there were three beautiful girls who worked for the school district as everyday custodians. And each was assigned very laborious duties, but I took them all away from that and now they work for me.’ ”
Tidball tried to brush off the comment as a joke, but he swore at her in his next email. He was only calmed down when Puleski told him to forgive her since she was a blonde.
The relationship with Tidball went sour just before Raucci was arrested.
In February 2009, Tidball asked for a transfer. She also asked him to talk over the matter with her husband, rather than her.
In an email written after that conversation, Raucci said Mark Tidball accused him of “inappropriate conduct.”
He said he had “nothing to regret” and that he would defend “his conduct” if she complained.
But he also said he was willing to transfer her to the school of her choice.
It was two weeks before they spoke to each other again, and then he sent a long, despairing email mourning the loss of their relationship.
“What you said to Joanne [last name not given] regarding me and my possible treatment of you was nothing more than lies and bullshit,” he wrote. “Now there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that you acted the way you did around me out of fear of what I could or would do to you. Not because you liked me or even thought I was an ok person …. it makes me sick to my stomach. What a stupid ass I was, but no more.”
Six days later, he was arrested. Tidball testified against him. She has also now filed a lawsuit against the school district, alleging sexual harassment.
Raucci was convicted of arson and other serious crimes. The school district is now making Raucci’s emails available under the terms of an out-of-court settlement with The Daily Gazette and the Times Union. The public is not allowed direct access to the documents, but reporters are allowed to make copies with handheld scanners for the next three months. There are more than 11,000 pages of documents.