2000: John Falco becomes superintendent of the Schenectady City School District.
2001: Steven Raucci becomes president of his unit of the union and sets an explosive on the wrong house in Rotterdam while aiming for an employee of the school district.
2003: Raucci is named head utility worker, a supervisory position.
2004: Raucci gets advice from administrators on how to change his title to make it appear that he is not a supervisor so he can stay in the union position.
2005: Raucci becomes energy manager. He vandalizes his union foes Harold and Deborah Gray’s home, in response to an anonymous letter to union brass questioning Raucci’s dual role. Judge Barry Kramer officiates over Raucci’s second marriage.
2006: Eric Ely becomes superintendent and gives Raucci the authority to approve or reject any appliance in school district buildings. Raucci begins a series of night inspections looking for microwaves and refrigerators, fights to keep heat low and athletic field lights off and places an explosive device on Athletic Director Gary DiNola’s car.
2007: Raucci places another explosive on a house and vandalizes it. Also, administrators protect Raucci after he emails a threat to an employee and the employee tries to file a written complaint.
2008: Raucci vandalizes the Grays’ truck — at the same home Raucci vandalized in 2005. Criminal investigation gains steam.
2009: Raucci vandalizes the Grays’ property again, days before he’s arrested. He also gets into an argument with another employee, and Human Resources Director Michael Stricos asks Raucci to investigate himself by collecting the witness statements. Raucci never gives the statements to Stricos. Raucci is arrested Feb. 20.
2010:Raucci is convicted in Schenectady County Court of waging a campaign of intimidation by placing bombs on the homes and cars of people he believes are his enemies or the enemies of his friends. He is sentenced to 23 years to life in prison.
SCHENECTADY In 15,000 emails sent and received by Steven Raucci over his last seven years at work, there was no smoking gun.
Not once did he openly admit to setting explosives on cars and homes, crimes for which he was convicted by a Schenectady County trial jury last year. He is now serving a sentence of 23 years to life.
There was also no direct evidence that school district administrators knew about his after-hours activities, and no emails between Raucci and statewide union officials who could have removed him from his position of power as president of his unit of CSEA.
But there were plenty of surprises over the past month, as The Daily Gazette reviewed the boxes of emails released by the Schenectady City School District under the terms of a lawsuit settlement.
Some of the biggest surprises came at the end, in a packet that district officials neglected to place with the eight boxes of emails released to the media. That last packet, which was released after the Gazette asked for it, contained summaries of interviews with school administrators by an independent investigator. The district hired the outsider to determine whether administrators knew what Raucci had done; she determined they knew nothing.
But in investigator Rachel Rissetto’s own summaries, she wrote that Superintendent Eric Ely knew Raucci had played “the man game” with an employee, who accused Raucci of sexual harassment. In the man game, Raucci would run his hand up his employee’s thigh until the man flinched.
According to the summary of his interview, Ely asked Raucci if he had done what his employee accused him of, and Raucci said he had done it “once or twice.” Ely’s response, according to Rissetto, was “I told him not to do it again.”
When Athletics Director Gary DiNola accused Raucci of setting an explosive on a car — a crime for which Raucci was later convicted — Ely also went to Raucci.
This time, he didn’t ask questions, according to Rissetto’s interview summary. Instead, he told Raucci, “If anything is happening here, it needs to stop.”
He had some reason to suspect Raucci, who had said he had a reputation for making “‘house calls’ which could affect someone’s health.”
But Ely did not go to police to discuss that comment in the context of what had happened to DiNola’s car. Instead, he simply told DiNola to talk to police.
When Ely was interviewed by Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney, who was preparing the case against Raucci, Ely gave a different story.
He said he had asked Raucci only whether he had placed the explosive, Carney said. That’s very different from the summary of the internal interview, in which he is quoted as telling Raucci to stop.
“I am quite sure he did not tell me that,” Carney said. “Saying ‘cut it out,’ that would imply he knew more than he let on.”
He added that he was not impressed by Ely’s decision to talk to Raucci after sending DiNola to police.
“To immediately bring Raucci in and say, ‘Did you do this?” Geez. Well, now you’re inserting yourself into a criminal investigation,” Carney said.
But that’s not illegal, he added.
“I don’t think so. He’s got certain responsibilities as a superintendent of schools. I think there would be nothing wrong with him conducting an investigation internally and determining whether someone needs to be fired. It would just be nice if that was done in conjunction with a criminal investigation.”
After considering all 15,000 pages of emails, Carney said there’s still nothing he could use to file charges against Ely.
“People say these people were so bad, they ought to be in jail. I understand that sentiment. You’d still have to prove they committed a crime,” Carney said. “I don’t know what that crime would be. I don’t think it exists.”
But, he said, the emails clearly show that administrators were more interested in fighting for power than leading the school district.
“Gary [DiNola] did great things for the schools, just great things, but Ely hated him and wanted him out,” Carney said.
Administrators clearly promoted some teachers to principal because of their willingness to follow, rather than abilities, Carney added. He said emails showed the administration cracked down on principals who wouldn’t simply do what they were told.
“It seems to me the conflict was between the principals who stood up for their teachers,” he said.
And the administrators used Raucci as their enforcer, Carney said.
“It worked for them. They wanted him in that position and didn’t care what he was doing to other people,” Carney said.
He noted the many times in the emails that administrators encouraged Raucci’s fantasies of running a Mafia family.
“They certainly played up that image with him,” Carney said.
But that’s also not illegal, he said.
If they had known that he was about to commit a crime, and did nothing to prevent it, they could have been charged as accessories. But even then, the case would be weak.
“The law is reluctant to impose those kinds of standards on people, because their only action is inaction,” Carney said.
When organized into chronological order, the emails showed Raucci quickly learning that certain principals should be left alone.
He created a list of “good” principals, all of whom consistently supported administrative edicts. They were rewarded for their behavior by getting more heat in their buildings, fresh paint on the walls, and quick building repairs.
Others did not get quick resolutions to their problems, and on the few occasions where they complained to Ely, he ignored them — or worse.
When a principal kept questioning district policies — regarding illegally paying custodians to work on political campaigns, keeping the heat low and the air conditioning off to save money, and not fixing problems in her part of the high school — Ely suggested on a hot day that Raucci shut off the air conditioning to her wing.
Link to judge
Emails also revealed that the judge who blocked The Daily Gazette’s original request for the emails had a connection to Raucci. State Supreme Court Judge Barry Kramer officiated at Raucci’s wedding, and according to a draft letter included in the emails, Raucci was on a first-name basis with the judge. Kramer did not disclose that connection before ruling that the Raucci emails should not be released to the public.
Emails also made it clear that Raucci knew some school employees were getting paid by the school district to work on budget and school board campaigns. That’s illegal — which Raucci also knew, according to emails in which he said he was not paying anyone for their time. But he also had an email listing precisely which employees had volunteered their time and which ones were on school time. Before releasing that email, the school district blacked out the names of the workers who were paid.
Many emails touched on Raucci’s control over his union, as he quashed complaints and told employees that they did not have the right to file grievances. He advised other union presidents to follow his lead, and helped certain principals build termination cases against his union members, rather than defending them.
He often wrote proudly that he was of great value to the administration because he could control his union, making workers show up for envelope-stuffing during school board campaigns and stopping them from filing grievances to change their work conditions.
Carney, who personally prosecuted Raucci at his trial, contended school officials valued Raucci’s control of the union so much that they were willing to ignore any complaints — even suggestions of criminal activity.
On one occasion, Raucci wrote that he was going to “go to war” and allow many grievances to be filed because administrators would not support him against other employees. Ely quickly interceded on Raucci’s behalf.
“He spoke to me in a way I was not expecting nor would have ever thought a Superintendent would,” Raucci wrote. “It may not have been said verbatim to me, but Eric gave me a sense that he would deal with anyone that affected the team concept we all worked so hard to establish with my department and Central Administration.”