On one of the first hot days of June in 2008, the Fine Arts house principal reported that the air conditioning wasn’t working.
High School Principal Margaret Normandin was also the person who had tracked the extremely cold temperatures in some high school classrooms the previous winter and had complained when custodians left their jobs unfinished so they could stuff envelopes to help school board members get elected.
So when she called Facilities Manager Steven Raucci three times, beginning at 7 a.m., to report that there was something wrong with the air conditioning, Superintendent Eric Ely knew what Raucci should do.
“I’m thinking a total breakdown in Fine Arts air conditioning is in order,” Ely wrote to Raucci. “What a shame that would be.”
The emails didn’t indicate whether Raucci took Ely’s advice.
But that winter, Raucci allegedly turned off the heat in one teacher’s classroom whose husband had challenged Raucci for the union presidency.
Raucci also allegedly misused his position as energy manager to punish teachers who he felt made unreasonable requests or complaints about his janitorial staff.
Emails documented repeated heat complaints, which he refused to address on the grounds that the district would save money by keeping the temperature down. In several cases, he also commented on whether the teacher in question was a “team player” and immediately restored the heat when people he termed “Steve friendly” said they were cold.
The emails were released by the school district under the terms of an out-of-court settlement with The Daily Gazette and the Times Union.
The air conditioning complaint wasn’t the only time Ely supported Raucci, according to emails reviewed Thursday.
In 2009, Raucci wrote to Ely about a “battle” with utility worker James Bachus, who he believed was trying to become union president.
Raucci wrote that Bachus’s life “will never be the same no matter what the outcome is with his problems regarding me.”
He went on to predict that employees like Bachus would complain to Ely.
“There will be casualties who will ultimately come to you when I’m finished with them,” he wrote.
Ely said he would only spend time listening to those who had been good to him in the past. “I will triage them according to their past practice with being nice to me,” he wrote.
Ely claimed publicly that no one ever presented proof to him about Raucci’s misdeeds.
“I certainly didn’t have any proof he’d done anything wrong,” Ely said after Raucci was convicted. “There were rumors. He basically denied everything. … It was basically their word against someone else. We did investigate when they complained.”
Ely also said he never knew about Raucci’s late-night expeditions to commit vandalism and set explosives on homes and cars, even though many of the victims were school employees. Raucci was convicted on those charges last year and is now serving a sentence of 23 years to life.
But nearly two years before he was arrested, Raucci referred openly to Ely about his “reputation” for such acts.
It started with a joke about potential nicknames.
Ely suggested Raucci be called “Dr. Death.”
Raucci’s response: “Actually, that was a name given to me many years ago. It had something to do with people claiming that I made ‘house calls’ which could affect someone’s health.”
Raucci added, “I have know [no] idea what they were talking about.”
Ely did not return a call seeking comment.