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Raucci victim given $250K

District agrees to settlement but admits no fault

Thursday, January 6, 2011
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Ronald Kriss, the first man to publicly make allegations against Steven Raucci, takes the stand on March 17, 2010, in Raucci’s arson and terrorism trial. Kriss was the custodial supervisor with the district.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Ronald Kriss, the first man to publicly make allegations against Steven Raucci, takes the stand on March 17, 2010, in Raucci’s arson and terrorism trial. Kriss was the custodial supervisor with the district.

— The first of Steven Raucci’s victims received some compensation from the Schenectady City School District Wednesday — but no apology.

Ronald Kriss, who sued the district on allegations that Raucci had sexually and physically harassed him, will get $250,000 in a settlement with the district.

It is the first of several expected settlements regarding Raucci’s treatment of school employees. Raucci was the district’s facilities manager at the time.

The board’s resolution emphasized that the district did not admit any fault and was only approving the settlement to avoid a costly court case. Board President Cathy Lewis, who read an extensive statement, expressed sympathy without admitting that Raucci had done anything to his underlings.

He was convicted last year of setting explosives on people’s cars and homes, including those of several school employees. He is now serving 23 years to life in state prison.

In Lewis’ statement, she focused on the need for the school district to move on.

“We are hoping we can begin to heal and find a way to turn our attention back to our students,” she said. “We regret any harm that may have been caused to anyone as the result of Mr. Raucci’s conduct. We feel sincere empathy — sincere sympathy — for anyone who has been affected.”

Lewis did offer one apology, but not to Raucci’s victims.

“We apologize to the Schenectady community for the disruption this may have caused to our schools,” she said. “It’s a fact that one of our employees was convicted of criminal acts. Our district and the Schenectady community continue to feel the impact of these acts, the highly publicized court case, events related to the case and subsequent legal claims.”

She added, “We want to be very clear and make it understood that no one here is happy about paying any amount of money on this or any legal claim.”

The district’s insurance policy will cover $100,000 of the settlement. The district will have to pay the remaining $150,000.

Kriss, who was a custodial supervisor at the district, sued for $8 million in 2008. The suit came long before Raucci was arrested for planting explosives and vandalizing the property of his perceived rivals and enemies.

Last year, Raucci was convicted of arson and 17 other counts. He is appealing the conviction.

But Kriss’ lawsuit focuses on Raucci’s alleged behavior at work.

Kriss said Raucci grabbed his genitals, playing what Raucci called the “man game,” in which he would run his hand up an employee’s thigh, apparently to judge when the worker would flinch away.

Kriss also said Raucci mocked him because he has irritable bowel syndrome. Raucci told him to relieve himself in his pants, Kriss said in his court filings.

Kriss filed a sexual harassment complaint in 2006 and took a lengthy medical leave. While away, he asked the district to reassign him to a different supervisor. District officials refused and then fired him when he did not come back to work.

Kriss took his case to the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, which upheld him. The board ordered that he be paid an unannounced monthly amount until he turns 65.

He was the only school employee to file a lawsuit related to Raucci before Raucci was arrested.

His lawsuit also served as the only public indication of Raucci’s actions.

When Raucci was arrested, the charges against him included two counts of vandalism at Kriss’ house. Both incidents, in 2005 and 2006, came after Kriss tried to convince district officials to take his sexual harassment complaint seriously. Raucci was convicted of those counts.

Then-Superintendent Eric Ely said he investigated complaints against Raucci but could not confirm anything because other workers who should have witnessed the harassment always claimed that nothing had happened. However, during trial, some witnesses said they had confirmed complaints.

Raucci held an unusual position in the district. He supervised the maintenance workers but also ran the union unit that represented those workers. Prosecutors alleged that school administrators wanted to keep Raucci in that position because he could quash labor complaints.

 
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