AN ADMINISTRATOR could be appointed to manage Armidale Regional Council (ARC) after internal divisions placed it squarely in the sights of the Office of Local Government.
On Tuesday night, lawyers for the council and chief executive Susan Law, along with the dissenting councillors were locked in a closed court battle in the NSW Land and Environment Court.
A group of councillors attempted to have Ms Law sacked for the second time at an extraordinary meeting on Monday.
Instead, there was a temporary injunction placed against five councillors in court so they could not participate in a meeting to terminate the contract. The council is the first applicant named in the proceedings.
Ms Law is privately funding her legal defence, and not using ratepayers' money.
The hearing was still continuing late on Tuesday.
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said he's fed up with the feuding, and earlier that day requested an immediate investigation into the conduct and governance of ARC.
"I hope this can be expedited to ensure this untenable situation is not allowed to continue and become 'business as usual'," he said.
The elected body is fractured and split into two distinct 'camps' who have been unable to resolve their differences.MP Adam Marshall
"Our region and our communities expect and deserve much better from their local council."
The dissent has not gone unnoticed by the Office of Local Government.
"The Office of Local Government (OLG) is closely monitoring the situation at Armidale Regional Council," a spokesman said.
"As the matter is currently before the court, it would not be appropriate for OLG to publicly comment."
The office was notified earlier on Tuesday after Mr Marshall took the matter to Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock.
"In my observation, relationships within the council including those between individual councillors, between the governing body and the executive arm and between the council and the community - has deteriorated to the extent where the situation is irretrievable, with effective and proper governance of the council now not possible," Mr Marshall said.
"It is obvious to even the most casual observer that the elected body is fractured and split into two distinct 'camps' who have been unable to resolve their differences."
A spokesman for Minister Hancock confirmed the office had received a formal request to intervene in the councils operations.
A key role of the OLG is to investigate serious breakdowns in council operations.
The OLG deputy secretary has the power to investigate councils if the conduct is having a serious impact on its community.
The Minister for Local Government can also appoint a commissioner to undertake a public inquiry into a council.
It is a necessary step in the process before a council is dismissed.
If a council becomes dysfunctional, the minister can appoint an administrator until the next council elections are held in 2021.
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was first published to confirm that ratepayers are not funding Ms Law's defence. The Leader apologises for the confusion.