IN the midst of a battle with breast cancer, Narrabri Shire Council councillor Ann Loder learned she had been removed from elected office because she didn't fill out a form.
Mrs Loder said she was verbally advised that she would be dismissed from the council last week, despite sending an email in February to advise she had no intention of resigning and would be away until further notice.
Any councillors who fail to attend three consecutive council meetings who don't lodge a leave of absence, regardless of circumstance, are automatically dismissed.
But, Mrs Loder believes the council's general manager was wrong to dismiss her, and plans to lodge an appeal with the Office of Local Government (OLG).
"With the breast cancer I've had three surgeries, one was the day after my double mastectomy because of blood loss and I nearly died," she said.
"With COVID-19, I have four children at home, three are at school and one has autism so you can imagine the distress of organising home-schooling.
"I had my second round of chemo [on Thursday], in the last lot the major side-effects didn't kick in, now I'm already suffering, I didn't need this on top of my health issues.
"The stress feeds that cancer and that's not good."
An apology was entered for Mrs Loder before each council meeting, so she has now sought legal advice in the hopes the OLG will overturn the automatic vacancy.
"I would like to also comment on the statement the general manager made that I was offered the chance to be a part of a media release," she said.
"They wanted to write that I had stepped down due to ill health, I didn't agree because it was false.
"It's important to note that it's been nearly two weeks since I was advised verbally I was stood down and there has still been no written notification, only what I read in the paper."
A Narrabri Shire Council (NSC) spokeswoman said the situation was unfortunate, but couldn't be helped.
"The council recognised this risk and was in regular contact with Mrs Loder throughout the three months preceding her automatic vacancy, requesting Mrs Loder lodge a leave of absence to allow her to focus on her health," she said.
"Council fully understands that Mrs Loder's priority was rightly her health and treatment, and that the situation that resulted is incredibly unfortunate and frustrating.
"Council understands it has been a very difficult time for Mrs Loder and her family and wishes her the best in her recovery."
Council staff contacted the OLG to see if they could save Mrs Loder's job given the extenuating circumstances.
It was advised that under the Local Government Act, councillor vacancies occur automatically without any consideration of the circumstances if no leave of absence form is lodged.
The vacancy was not a decision of the council, the NSC spokeswoman said.
"Council was shocked and saddened to learn of Mrs Loder's health diagnosis earlier this year. Mrs Loder has been in the thoughts and prayers of the mayor, councillors and staff over the past four months," she said.