Steven Raucci: Schenectady’s Satanic Maintenance Man
November 23, 2010 28 Comments
On another brilliant tip from C. Dave, I checked out a recent episode of This American Life called “Petty Tyrant.”
It’s one of their most astounding and spellbinding episodes yet, which is really saying something considering that TAL is probably the greatest radio show of our time.
“Petty Tyrant” tells the tale of Steven Raucci, a man who took over the Schenectady, NY school district maintenance department and ran it like an evil dictator for decades.
Raucci had a malevolent genius for manipulating the people he worked for and the poor souls who reported to him. He played subordinates against each other, sexually harassed secretaries, vandalized the homes of his enemies, and even planted bombs to terrorize his victims.
All the while, complaints against him were ignored, and many people he went after were too afraid to say anything for fear of his retribution.
And he did it all while wielding this scary toupee:
The source of Raucci’s power was that he simultaneously controlled the management of the school district maintenance department and the labor union that represented the employees of that department. He took control of the union first, then gained control of the department itself.
While he was the top-ranking employee, he managed to avoid being named anything more glorified than “head utility worker.” That’s because being officially appointed to management would force him to give up his post as head of the labor union.
And because Raucci ran the union, if an employee was being victimized by Raucci at work, there was nowhere for him to turn.
As for Raucci’s bosses? They were thrilled with his performance, because he got things done with brutal efficiency. Not only that, but he turned maintenance workers out in droves every time a local election arose. The manpower that Raucci controlled kept his bosses in power, so they didn’t take complaints against him seriously and allowed him to game his job titles in order to keep control of the union.
Raucci was finally brought down — indicted and convicted of 18 counts of arson, conspiracy, weapons and criminal mischief, and sentenced to 23 years in prison — after he was caught on tape discussing his methods and trafficking in explosives.
But not before he got up to the following misdeeds detailed in the TAL story:
- When one of his favorite female subordinates mentioned that she preferred guys like Matthew McConaghey to guys like Raucci, he fully freaked out and reassigned her to a less enjoyable job.
- He sexually harassed his secretary and made his male employees play “the man game,” wherein he would dong-punch them and squeeze their nards.
- When a city employee was hired and tasked with making the city more energy-efficient, Raucci coveted his job and decided to backstab him. He tasked his employees with leaving lights on over the weekends and running the light boards at the football stadium non-stop for “repairs.” When the poor sap was fired, Raucci claimed the salary (though not the title) for himself, and went around cutting the electrical cords of “unauthorized appliances” to achieve massive energy savings in the schools.
- When he believed that the wife of one of his workers had submitted a complaint against him, he painted the word “RAT” in huge letters on every exterior wall of their house during the night and left explosives on their doorstep.
- Anyone who crossed him was detailed to do the crappiest job in the district — cleaning up after the high school students — no matter how much seniority they had earned.
- When one woman working for him dumped another woman that was in Raucci’s good graces, her home was tagged with the word “CHEATER” and then bombed!
The story of Steven Raucci has to be heard to be believed. Major props to producer Sarah Koenig for telling an astounding tale.