FIVE councillors have been blocked from moving to sack Armidale Regional Council (ARC) chief executive Susan Law by the NSW Land and Environment Court.
A temporary injunction was granted late on Tuesday night against former administrator Ian Tiley, Dorothy Robinson and councillors Margaret O'Connor, Debra O'Brien and Jon Galletly.
Council initiated the proceedings in the court and Mrs Law hired a private lawyer to represent her, after she was named as the second applicant in the legal proceedings.
The court has made no findings at this stage and the matter will return to court in June.
The order was sought by ARC to protect the council from any potential liability if the removal of Mrs Law was deemed unlawful, an ARC spokesperson said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
"The injunction remains until the matter is heard before the Land and Environment Court on Tuesday, June 9," he said.
"Council operations will continue unchanged, no councillors are restrained from conducting the ordinary business of council.
"They are able to vote and conduct normal council business, other than determining the chief executive's employment, until the matter is decided by the Land and Environment Court."
The legal proceedings were initiated after the five councillors moved twice to have Ms Law removed from office. The latest attempt was planned for an extraordinary council meeting earlier this week.
An unsuccessful coup was organised by a group of seven councillors in January to have mayor Simon Murray removed from the position, just four months after he was re-elected.
The infighting has raised eyebrows from Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall, the Armidale Regional Ratepayers' Association (ARRA), the Office of Local Government (OLG), and community members about the ability of the council staff and elected officials to provide good governance.
The OLG has confirmed it is monitoring the proceedings.
Dorothy Robinson declined to comment on the legal matters, but reassured the public that the councillors would do their best for the community.
"Everything will continue as normal, except for voting on items not permitted by the injunction," she said.
"I'm looking forward to some interesting and respectful debates about the budget and our plans for the coming year, including how to recover from the pandemic; and making sure we take advantage of stimulus money to make our region a great place to live."
ARRA executive and former Armidale Dumaresq Council mayor Herman Beyersdorf said he was deeply concerned about the "untenable" situation.
"Twice now the council has been prevented from exercising its democratic right to vote on a motion to terminate the employment of the chief executive," Mr Beyersdorf said.
"And the question is, how much is this costing the ratepayers?
"Commentators have said that the termination will cost ratepayers' money, but the additional legal costs are bound to be substantial.
"Equally, commentators have said that terminating the chief executive will be disruptive, but it would seem that this continuing Mexican standoff will be much more disruptive."
The ARRA has joined with Mr Marshall in calling on Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock for an inquiry or investigation of the council.
Cr Tiley, Cr O'Connor and Cr Galletly all declined to make comment on Wednesday.
"I would love to give you my side of the whole thing, but I cannot make any comment," Cr Galletly said.
Ms Law and Cr O'Brien were also contacted for comment but did not respond.
Editor's note: On Wednesday, an article referred to Ms Law using council lawyers in the proceedings. Ms Law is a separate applicant, in the proceedings against the five councillors. Ratepayers are not funding Ms Law's defence. The Leader apologises for the confusion.