UNION CITY AND BEYOND -- Former Union City Deputy Police Chief Joe Blaettler, who has brought several apparent scandals in Union City to light over the past year, was asked by a Union City municipal clerk to pay a $1,920 fee for a large Open Public Records Act request he made two months ago, he said on Wednesday. He said that now, he is taking the matter to court.
Blaettler had also filed a suit back in April for other records he tried to get from the city, but said he failed to get.
Blaettler was the deputy chief of police for 23 years before he retired in December 2008. A year later, he was hired as a private investigator by a citizen who gave him information that led to an investigation that, in the end, exposed Union City Mayor Brian Stack’s ex-wife Katia, who ran the city's day care program. In addition, Blaettler's prompting also led to an investigation of thousands of dollars paid to the city's recently retired police chief for off-duty work over the past few years, a matter featured on several News 12 investigative reports (see links to related stories below).
By state law, requests for OPRA documents must be handled within seven business days, and Blaettler called the lack of a timely response a clear violation of the OPRA act. But the clerk stated that OPRA requests that require over three hours of research incur a fee of $32 in labor per hour.
Blaettler said he made OPRA requests for documents surrounding what he believes is the “wasteful spending” of the Community Development Agency and referenced what he called “questionable projects” lumped under what the CDA termed their citywide façade improvement program.
According to Stack's spokesman, Mark Albiez, Blaettler could have used the state Government Records Council rather than a lawsuit to address his complaint.