One of the biggest questions in the Steven Raucci scandal has been whether Schenectady City School District Superintendent Eric Ely knew what his employee was doing.
No evidence has shown that Ely was aware that Raucci was setting explosives on private property to intimidate people, for which Raucci is now serving 23 years to life in prison.
But in the thousands of emails reviewed so far through an out-of-court settlement with the school district, there are many cases in which employees complained directly to Ely about Raucci’s threats and insults.
To view some of the emails we reviewed Thursday, click here.
They apparently got nowhere. Ely usually did not respond, letting his assistant superintendents brush away the complaints.
But in one case, Ely wrote back.
It was January 2007. By this time, Ely had received dozens of emails in which Raucci castigated, insulted or outright threatened school employees. In each case, Raucci chose to send Ely a copy of the email.
Finally, one of his targets had enough. Zoller Elementary School Principal Jane Poklemba, who has since retired, wrote Ely to complain about Raucci’s “tone.” She was upset because Raucci refused to have his workers re-hang cabinets on a new interior wall, saying that he’d done enough for her by building the wall.
“I find Steve’s tone offensive,” she said. “He sounds like he thinks he’s doing me a favor. I don’t get it and really am tired of it. Is there anything that can be done?”
Raucci, upon finding out that she had written a complaint, sent an email to Ely saying that Poklemba “has now made my s--t list.”
Ely shut Poklemba down with one sentence.
“I’m not sure what tone you are referring to,” he wrote her.
He then advised her to complain to assistant superintendents Michael San Angelo and William Roberts. He promised that the men would “investigate.”
But that investigation did not appear to happen.
A day later, Raucci wrote one of his so-called investigators an email in which he made it clear that he was certain he would not be disciplined for his attitude.
In the email, he said he was sorry he had apologized to Poklemba. He wouldn’t have apologized if he’d known that she’d complained, he wrote.
“Unfortunately for me, she probably thinks my apology was a result of someone speaking to me,” he wrote to San Angelo.
He wasn’t always so confident about San Angelo’s willingness to turn a blind eye to his behavior. In 2003, shortly after he became facilities director, he ignored Poklemba’s urgent requests for doors on bathroom stalls.
For two weeks, he put her off, telling her to resubmit forms she had submitted under the previous director.
Then she sent a copy of one of his emails to San Angelo. A few days later, he wrote Raucci to say, “Steve: Let’s discuss the stalls. Thanks.”
An hour later, Raucci wrote back to say he’d started work on the bathroom doors.
Other principals offered cookies or dinner to get him to approve their projects. On at least one occasion, Raucci used those gifts to solidify the importance of his position in the administration.
“[One] stipulation, when you do make the cookies and come to 108 to drop them off, stop HERE before [Director of Human Resources] Mike Stricos office,” he wrote Principal Valarie Scott in 2007. “It is important for Mike to know his hierarchy when it involves gifts or favors to one of the family. It make be confusing to you, but he will understand.”
Raucci may have been referring to a Mafia-style family, which he references in numerous other emails. He sent out messages telling certain people that they were in “the family” — and detailing those who had been kicked out of the family.
Stricos gave Raucci a framed poster from the mafia movie “The Godfather,” which Raucci proudly displayed in his office.
The Daily Gazette is reviewing emails sent to and from Raucci as part of a settlement with the school district. The Gazette and the Times Union had sued the district for access to the emails.
Reporters are allowed to read the documents at the district offices for 90 days. The settlement allowed the district to print out the documents, rather than releasing them in electronic format. Reporters can scan the documents with hand-held scanners 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 just giving access to the two newspaers.
There are more than 11,000 pages of emails. Every day, reporters will scan a selection of those emails and post the pages on the Daily Gazette’s website.