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November 18, 2010 7:45 AM   Subscribe

The subject of this week's This American Life, Schenectady, NY schools facilities director Steven Raucci was tried and convicted last year on arson and weapons charges after six years in which Raucci routinely exercised his power as union head, manager and close associate of the district heads to sexually harass, threaten and intimidate coworkers, including using explosives on enemies' cars and homes. Much of the district's investigative report is redacted.
posted by l33tpolicywonk (42 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was riveted by this last Sunday. It is just stunning that he got away with it for so long.
posted by futz at 7:48 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


His ending speech on the TAL episode is just horrendously compelling. He genuinely seemed to think of himself as a victim who did his best to help others. A properly baffling portrait of villainy.
posted by RokkitNite at 7:52 AM on November 18, 2010


An incredible podcast and story - I did a couple of laps around my house on the ol' bicycle so I could keep listening to the end.

Also, why do I get the feeling he studied up on how to create a sick system?
posted by Happy Dave at 7:55 AM on November 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


He will do very well for himself in prison, though.
posted by Danf at 8:00 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Visit beautiful Schenectady, NY, home of the corpse of GE and bafflingly insane public servants
posted by clockzero at 8:00 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The TAL podcast is absolutely fascinating. I had been meaning to do some more research about it afterwards, and forgot. Thanks for the post!
posted by rollbiz at 8:02 AM on November 18, 2010


Happy Dave: "Also, why do I get the feeling he studied up on how to create a sick system?"

This is one of the most pertinent links I've ever read on Metafilter. Thanks.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:03 AM on November 18, 2010


l33tpolicywonk: "Happy Dave: "Also, why do I get the feeling he studied up on how to create a sick system?"

This is one of the most pertinent links I've ever read on Metafilter. Thanks.
"

I got that beat - here's the Mefi post about the sick system article.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:05 AM on November 18, 2010


Happy Dave: "I got that beat - here's the Mefi post about the sick system article."

I love learning that I somehow missed a 220-favorite post from four months ago.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:07 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, Mario Nigro, a Verizon assistant manager, took the stand and laid the groundwork for what is expected to be evidence of phone conversations between the defendant and ex-CSEA union leader Joanne DeSarbo. Raucci is accused of spray-painting "cheater" on the house and leaving an explosive on the door handle of the Schodack residence DeSarbo shared with her female companion before they split up. The explosive never detonated.

The day's other witness was Brian Hogan, who owns the computer company that helps the school district manage its network. Under questioning, he said he culled about 11,000 e-mail correspondences between school staff after receiving a subpoena from the school board secretary. The e-mails were later forwarded to the district attorney's office and pared down to 106, the contents of which Hogan and his staff were asked to verify. Hogan also testified that the only people with access to districtwide e-mails were two engineers on his staff, Ely and those with a school BlackBerry service account. It was unclear how many employees have those BlackBerrys.


You have the right to remain silent.

Anything you say can - and will - be revealed by your communication provider and will be used against you in a court of law.
posted by three blind mice at 8:08 AM on November 18, 2010


I just listened to that last night, just amazing.
posted by octothorpe at 8:08 AM on November 18, 2010



You have the right to remain silent.

Anything you say can - and will - be revealed by your communication provider and will be used against you in a court of law.
"

Did you miss the word subpeona in there, or what?
posted by Happy Dave at 8:10 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Old-School.
posted by delmoi at 8:12 AM on November 18, 2010


I stood in the kitchen to listen to it after the dishes were finished, and while I was standing there, my husband ran in from the driveway saying "Please turn on NPR!"
posted by theredpen at 8:31 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


You have the right to remain silent.

Anything you say can - and will - be revealed by your communication provider and will be used against you in a court of law.


then maybe they should have stayed silent?
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:39 AM on November 18, 2010


This guy is a classic workplace bully. It's a serious problem, and considerably widespread. WA state even has a lengthy pdf pamphlet on the topic from the Department of Labor and Industries. NY state senate has passed a bill to help those caught working with a workplace bully, but I don't think it's been signed into law yet.

I feel for these people. Workplace bullying is a terrible sickness in our collective working lives. I'm glad this guy finally went too far and is behind bars.
posted by hippybear at 9:05 AM on November 18, 2010


Much of the district's investigative report is redacted.

"Much"? Entire pages are missing. heh.

If I'm reading that right, the school board went out and hired themselves a consultant after Raucci was arrested. If you're going to engage in CYA, why cutout large sections of the report meant to protect you?
posted by madajb at 9:05 AM on November 18, 2010


He sounds like a hands-on, take charge kind of guy. We need more of those.

*goes back to watching Falling Down, as a break from his Death Wish marathon*
posted by Eideteker at 9:09 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying who she was, but one of the mods told me that this is how Matt runs the MetaEmpire.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:28 AM on November 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Did you miss the word subpeona in there, or what?

subpoenas are trivial. froot of the poisonous tree does not exist. the original point restated is just as harrowing: any information about anyone is just a subpoena away.
posted by lulz at 9:40 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


"why cutout large sections of the report meant to protect you?"

Probably protected by law (often personnel information), or part of an ongoing investigation.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:41 AM on November 18, 2010


lulz: "Did you miss the word subpeona in there, or what?

subpoenas are trivial. froot of the poisonous tree does not exist. the original point restated is just as harrowing: any information about anyone is just a subpoena away.
"

Sorry, what's your point? As far as I can see, this was a criminal investigation that went exactly the way it was supposed to and put a vicious, physically violent bully in prison. It's not like ECHELON was monitoring the guy's email - it was pulled by subpeona because some complaints about the horrific working environment he created finally leaked out, despite his best efforts to stamp on said leaks.

Normally I'm the first guy to smack my forehead when the 'if you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear' crowd come out in force, but the point was this guy had done (a lot of) things wrong, had been accused, was investigated and is now jailed.

This is the system actually working.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:54 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This was really fascinating, scary, and awesome (because of the end result) all at once.

And I found myself thinking about it so much after I heard it last week and trying to put myself in those people's shoes. I know it's really easy to say "Well, I would have said something" when all those people didn't. But I would have!

But I also realizes that comes from an incredibly privileged place. As much as I've struggled with money or jobs or whatever, I also have the self-worth that being told you're "special" all your life, and I feel I would have done something.

Or would I have? Are their bullies in my own life that I've just ignored because they didn't effect me? Or even worse, because causing trouble would cause trouble for those I love and probably eventually me? And then I realize that there are Chicago cops out there who got away with violations that would make me sick if I heard them asked on AskMeta but yet, back then, I did nothing because I felt powerless.

Anyway, what I'm saying is, I wish I could make the whole world listen to this episode and apply it to their own lives. I think the world would be a much better place, because there are a lot of fucking petty tyrant bullies out there.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:05 AM on November 18, 2010


MCMikeNamara: This was really fascinating, scary, and awesome (because of the end result) all at once.


Fascinating and scary, yes, but I don't know about awesome. He was brought down not by those around him standing up and saying "Enough!", but by being careless in one of his arson gambits. He could just have easily kept going on and on.
posted by mkultra at 10:15 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


You have the right to remain silent.

But you don't have an unlimited right to speak or write or send e-mail "privately" (particularly not on your employer's computers) and never have those things used against you in court.
posted by straight at 10:31 AM on November 18, 2010


If Groundskeeper Willie was like this, that show would be a lot more interesting
posted by wheelieman at 10:46 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yet again we're reminded of Lesson #1 in the Getting Away With It handbook: Don't email from work.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:53 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I live in Schenectady and can tell you that nobody around here was particularly surprised. People complained for years and the NPR story only tells part of the tale.

Raucci ran his department like a fiefdom -- campaigning, and ordering employees to campaign, for the same corrupt school board members who looked the other way while Raucci schemed and intimidated his way to power. Play along and suck up the overtime or protest and live in fear. Make no mistake about it, people were afraid. Raucci, whom I've met on several occasions, is a scary scary dude, right out of the Sopranos.

This entire matter was handled very quietly at first, with the Schenectady school board spending a lot of time in closed door sessions. In Schenectady *everything* is a personnel matter. Well, except when they're serving minors alcohol and doing keg stands.

Calling law enforcement isn't even a great option. This is a city that has seen seven cops fired for various felonies (most with multiple offenses) in the last year and where the former police chief just got of prison for cocaine sales. They police the downtown and the Union College area, anywhere else and this shithole may as well be Deadwood.
posted by cedar at 11:04 AM on November 18, 2010 [12 favorites]


The last bit bugged me - wth the statement that the superindendent of the Schenectady school system being forced out - not that that bugged me, but more that he moved on to Massachusetts. Apparently, he has become the superintendent of schools in Southbridge, MA. Interestingly enough the web is quite useful in providing both an email address for him as well as the contact information for the PTO in the area. I wonder if both parties are aware that TAL ran this piece this weekend.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:04 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The last bit bugged me - wth the statement that the superindendent of the Schenectady school system being forced out

Forced out?

Not exactly. He was paid off with the board President writing laudatory letters to potential employers despite his horrendous record and complicity in the Raucci matter. Apparently concern for educational standards stop at the district border as far as the Schenectady schools board is concerned.

They wanted him gone and pawning him off to the highest bidder made far more sense than buying out his contract -- the contract that was conveniently renewed the very week before the emails revealing his prior knowledge of Raucci's actions were released.
posted by cedar at 11:14 AM on November 18, 2010


Being a facility manager myself, first at a museum and then in a giant novelty clock tower, I was pretty fascinated by this piece.

I started out with a little scowl, hearing the guy complaining about losing his space heater, because, honestly, I've fought the heater battle a million times, albeit in an almost infinitely less aggressive way, because space heaters are, in fact, the antichrist of facility managers. I think I always wondered why the maintenance and janitorial set always seemed a little cranky, until I became a member of that harried fraternity, and it all became clear.

For one thing, all non-maintenance people in the world are fucking animals in the bathroom. You'd claim you're not like that, but you dry your hands and miss the trash can and well, I'm not picking that up off a dirty bathroom floor. You have a rough time on the toilet and splatter the back of the bowl with impacted nasty and you look around furtively and dart out of there, thinking that you got away with it. You and two hundred doctors dressed as clowns run into bathrooms in spite of huge signs saying that THE WATER MAIN TO THIS BUILDING IS BROKEN, and to PLEASE USE THE WORKING BATHROOMS IN THE MAIN BUILDING and shit and shit and shit into the non-working toilets, building underwater crap mountains that rise like Surtsey until they stand proud of the rim of the toilet seat, drying gently in the air, but you know, there are people to deal with that.

My blue collar joy was dampened a bit the first time I found out why it's not a good idea to try to clean bum shit out from behind the bike rack with a pressure washer. There's this nice satisfying sense of accomplishment until you realize that it's raining tea-colored droplets of predigested despair over you and you suddenly get a weird taste of smoked ham in your mouth that's coming from—ohholycrapI'mgoingtokillmyself.

No, seriously. This is never going to get better. I can't untaste this.

So I feel like there's a reason, in a way, why facility managers go bad, and this guy's sort of amazing in the scope and depth of the insanity, which makes me wonder if I'd be that crazy with increasing access to power. I mean, I'm a good guy. I like people, even when I've had to clean their vomit off of an art car covered with broken glass.

I'd never be like that guy, I'm pretty sure, but you have these moments, like when you're kneeling in a museum garden, having just discovered what looks an awful lot like a miscarried fetus the size of a lima bean in a cocktail napkin that's stuck to one of your nicest gardening gloves. There's something about the way the world treats the people who clean and repair the world that either makes you a far, far better person or an insane, angry, monstrous Phantom of the Mechanical Room, with a sense of entitlement and righteousness.

I exaggerate, of course, but man, you encounter some insane crap, sometimes.

If you take that and cross a line, though, you really should get busted, and hard. I feel sorry for the people who had to suffer through it for so long.
posted by sonascope at 12:10 PM on November 18, 2010 [28 favorites]


I started out with a little scowl, hearing the guy complaining about losing his space heater, because, honestly, I've fought the heater battle a million times, albeit in an almost infinitely less aggressive way, because space heaters are, in fact, the antichrist of facility managers.

Why is this? Because people leave them on? Because they consume so much power?
posted by almostmanda at 12:54 PM on November 18, 2010


With the exception of stalking people at home and scaring them with dynamite, his other power plays seemed like what a lot of bosses do, just to a more extreme level. Intimidation and threats and humiliation are a normal part of workday culture; it's just that in other places, 80% of it is done with a smile and a spoonful of pleasantries and less sexist behavior.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, I envy you.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:02 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The space heater thing comes down to a few things.

They're unbelievably inefficient, and when you have to go over your monthly budget numbers with a panicky CFO who's looking at your numbers and asking why why why why why why why they're so high, it just really grates on you. You get a crick from the shrugging. Worse, even, for all the energy they burn, they do virtually nothing to warm a room, and they have weird side effects, like when rising heat from the heater invariably manages to make a little bubble around the thermostat for the room, shutting off the recirculator for that room and making it even colder.

They're also champion breaker-trippers, running at roughly the wattage of a hair dryer, and for me, the worst part is when I get the 2am call from a nightowl studio artist who's knocked out the power for the whole side of the building, necessitating a 25 mile drive to Baltimore to unlock the mechanical room and reset the breaker for a tenant who's breaking the rules of a very old and terrifyingly fire-ready structure when a sweater would do nicely.

I have worked entirely in the nonprofit field as a facility guy, and we're not an industry that's really swimming in funding just now, so you sort of hope for a little cooperation along the way, but people will continue to sneak those damn things in no matter how often, politely, or meticulously you explain why they're a problem.

"Why can't you just turn up the heat?"

Of course, I'd love to, but someone's gotta pay the bills.
posted by sonascope at 1:28 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


almostmanda: I recently saw a photo of a partially melted computer from a space heater left on over a weekend. And apparently melting a computer was the best of all possible outcomes; it could've caused a fire if there'd been anything actually flammable handy.

OTOH...it was 57 degrees in the room where that guy was trying to work. For reals. At my sedentary job I get cold when it drops below 68 or so. (Plus I get cold hands.) So I feel for the guy. After a certain amount of complaining and not being heard, you end up taking vigilante action.
posted by epersonae at 1:29 PM on November 18, 2010


speaking of which, where are my fingerless gloves? I'm friggin' cold.
posted by epersonae at 1:30 PM on November 18, 2010


Sorry, what's your point? As far as I can see, this was a criminal investigation that went exactly the way it was supposed to and put a vicious, physically violent bully in prison. It's not like ECHELON was monitoring the guy's email - it was pulled by subpeona because some complaints about the horrific working environment he created finally leaked out, despite his best efforts to stamp on said leaks.

Normally I'm the first guy to smack my forehead when the 'if you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear' crowd come out in force, but the point was this guy had done (a lot of) things wrong, had been accused, was investigated and is now jailed.

This is the system actually working.


i am not familiar with the story at all. i have not read any of what has been posted. i just saw your comment about a subpoena dismissing whatever someone else posted as a concern. subpoenas are easily obtained for trivial reasons. i do not know if that was the case here. combined with the pervasiveness of technology, this is a large issue. even "illegally obtained" evidence makes its way into trials readily.

the fact that this guy was a monster (dunno if, but assume is, true) is part of the problem. DA's, like all humans, often act out of self- and systemic-interests instead of for the greater good. DA's choose those trials involving monsters to most brazenly impose upon civil liberties, so it is easy to side with the DA and so things will be easier for the DA (and the system the DA is a part of) in the future. dunno if this was the case here, i was just responding to comments, i guess it was a poor idea and this response is probably also.

i just like the adirondacks.
posted by lulz at 1:47 PM on November 18, 2010


When I listened to this, I couldn't avoid making up little fantasies about how, as a staff member, I might have bought this asshole down. Of course, hindsight is 20-20, but I imagined waiting until the bastard was on leave, trying to gather as many staff together as possible, and saying "Right, we're getting in our cars and driving down to the district HQ / union HQ, and are going to go in and sit there and not move until this guy is gone. If you want to be a cockroach and go tell him what we're doing, leave now. Everyone else who's with me, call your families to tell them you won't be home, and grab your keys." The story made me so angry, I couldn't help pondering a dramatic demise for him.

It also brings up questions about state of mine. The guy was clearly insane. I mean, seriously, legitimately mentally ill. Should that be used as an excuse for his actions, or can we just chalk it down to tyrrany and evil?
posted by Jimbob at 2:03 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is just stunning that he got away with it for so long.

Why? Down in Arizona, Joe Arpaio is pulling this crap in broad daylight and bragging about it.
The really scary thing is how many people support and even root for bullies, if they think they're on the same side.
posted by msalt at 3:57 PM on November 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Insight into why people support (and even root for) bullies
posted by jtron at 8:36 AM on November 19, 2010


So I guess it all boils down to, "you're just going to have to be cold, you idiot", eh?
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:55 PM on November 20, 2010


The really scary thing is how many people support and even root for bullies, if they think they're on the same side.

Yes, it is something pretty amazing to observe. In my experience, many people only tacitly support and seemingly root for bullies in hopes of keeping themselves from becoming targets. The "enemy of my enemy" thing sometimes doesn't work if most of the parties either directly or peripherally involved are scared enough.

It was interesting in the podcast to hear how Raucci told people not to talk bad about him anywhere other than inside their own heads because everything got back to him. Everything. That's some mighty fine mind-fucking right there.
posted by fuse theorem at 2:25 PM on November 20, 2010


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