Taking legal action against its councillors was a preemptive strike by Armidale Regional Council to prevent the termination of its CEO, Susan Law.
That was how Justice Brian Preston summed up the case before him on Thursday in the NSW Land and Environment Court.
In the case, which commenced on Wednesday, the council was seeking a permanent injunction to prevent councillors terminating the CEO's contract.
The council initially took out a temporary injunction against five councillors in May, just as they were due to meet to vote on a motion that would have terminated Mrs Law's contract, if it was passed.
The court heard the council's decision to take legal action was made by the general manager of organisational development, Kim Bryan, who had been delegated authority by the CEO.
During Thursday's hearing, the lawyer representing the five councillors, Shane Prince, SC, read a letter the CEO wrote to the mayor, Simon Murray, last month, which he said showed Mrs Law was aware of some of the issues that had caused concern among councillors.
He said that included calling for expressions of interest to privatise Armidale Regional Airport "without going through council, or getting council approval" and a range of other matters.
On Thursday, Justice Preston told the council's legal representative, Margaret Allars, SC, the problem was that the council had misconceived its position, as she outlined the council's argument that it was dealing with biased councillors.
"It somehow has thought that these duties, are duties of the councillors, instead of duties of the council," Justice Preston said.
"But at any point in time the council could have discharged what it says are its duty to afford Ms Law an opportunity to be heard. It didn't need to wait until now.
"It could have done it and should have done it at any point in time. And it could have done that by making inquiries with the councillors.
"This should have been done before the proceedings are even commenced," he said.
The judge has reserved his judgement on whether the permanent injunction will be granted.
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