Amid concerns about bullying, behavioural issues and court action, Armidale's councillors have agreed to work together to respond to the state government's threat of suspension.
Although not all will attend a workshop, organised by mayor Simon Murray to work out a response to Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock.
In a mayoral minute at Wednesday morning's Armidale Regional Council meeting, Cr Murray tabled the letter from the Minister, which said the minister intended to suspend the councillors for three months.
The council has to respond within 14 days of receiving the letter, which is by Monday, June 1.
As well as Wednesday's workshop, the council has decided to hold an extraordinary meeting on Friday to finalise the council's response.
"It is to be hoped that we can find common ground in preparing and submitting our response so that we may preserve representation for the community," Cr Murray's notice to councillors said today.
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"Among her reasons for consideration of the order, the Minister cites many long standing issues between councillors, and between councillors and council staff.
"The Minister refers to an aggregation of issues developing over time."
In his notice to the council, the mayor wrote that those issues include several issues:
- Code of conduct complaints, between councillors, and between councillors and staff;
- Behavioural issues, also between councillors, and between councillors and staff;
- Allegations of bullying, leading to concerns about health and wellbeing, again between councillors, and between councillors and staff.
"The Minister expresses concern around governance, and the recent court action to resolve allegations of bias.
"As the Minister states, these are serious matters creating significant reputational, legal, and WHS risks, that must be addressed.
"To provide the best possible opportunity to prepare and submit a meaningful response, I have convened a facilitated workshop of the elected members to be held this afternoon.
"It is to be hoped that we can come together, putting aside our differences and cooperating in good faith, to work through the issues that have divided us.
"It is to be hoped to find clear air and common ground on which to move forward.
"It is to be hoped that we can prepare a response that will show the Minister that Armidale Regional Council is capable of being governed by its elected representatives.
"We can restore the faith of community at large in its elected representatives."
But not all councillors agreed to attend Wednesday's workshop, citing the legal action still before the court between the council and five councillors.
It will be left to remaining councillors to attend and determine their response to the minister.
An earlier version of this story said all councillors would attend the Wednesday workshop. It was altered when The Armidale Express learned that some councillors would not be attending.