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School district plans to appeal court ruling on last Raucci lawsuit

Monday, October 14, 2013
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— Attorneys for the Schenectady City School District intend to appeal a recent ruling in the last remaining lawsuit related to the case of convicted arsonist Steven Raucci. They’re looking for clarification on the ruling and arguing that it effectively ends the case.

Meanwhile, the attorney for Barbara Tidball, the former school facilities secretary who contends she was sexually harassed by Raucci and the administration did nothing to stop it, argues the ruling is clear: the case continues.

To prevail at trial, Tidball must prove that district administrators were notified of the harassment and failed to respond, either because Raucci was an administrator himself or because other administrators were notified.

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas D. Buchanan in a previous ruling noted that Raucci’s alleged sexually harassing actions appeared undisputed. What was disputed was notification to administrators.

With the most recent ruling, Patrick Fitzgerald, the attorney representing the district, said he believes that ruling ends the case.

“That is the only issue in this case,” Fitzgerald said. “The rest of the decision confuses me.”

Fitzgerald said he intends to appeal, seeking clarification from the state Appellate Division.

Paul Dwyer, an attorney for Tidball, though, said his reading of the decision and a related previous one means that the case continues.

Dwyer said the ruling means that he can’t prove notice through Raucci, but can through other administrators.

Although Raucci identified administrators on the memo who were to receive copies, those administrators have denied receiving it. Fitzgerald said the first the district knew about the memo was after Raucci’s arrest.

Multiple lawsuits were filed in the wake of the Raucci case, with all but Tidball’s suit either settled or withdrawn. One employee and target of Raucci received a $250,000 settlement in his case, while another received $25,000.

Raucci’s position within the district was often cited by prosecutors at his 2010 trial. Prosecutors argued Raucci’s acts of arson and intimidation were intended by Raucci to protect his position with the district from those he perceived as enemies.

District administrators, the prosecution contended, found Raucci useful in keeping labor peace and looked the other way when it came to allegations related to him.

Raucci’s criminal trial ended with 18 convictions, for which Raucci is now serving 23 years to life in state prison. No one was hurt in any of the incidents.

Tidball’s case drew particular attention in the Raucci saga for a sexually degrading memo released early in the criminal case that included 11 “conditions of appointment.” They included: “Take time every day to keep your appearance pleasing for your supervisor,” and “If you are married or living with a significant other, it must be understood that during the hours of 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. you are there for your supervisor.”

In her lawsuit, Tidball argued that the harassment went beyond that, including a “large and unending series of greeting cards, signed and unsigned memos, and communications of a sexual or quasi-sexual harassing nature.”

 
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