At 10am Friday Armidale's councillors gathered online for an extraordinary meeting. What they did not know was they were already suspended.
At the same time, the council's public officer, Andrew Brown, was watching the NSW Government website. But as the meeting started, he had not found the suspension of the council among the almost 300 pages of legislation that was published on Friday morning.
Meanwhile, the mayor's mobile phone was sitting on silent in his office and a call was missed, which would have informed him the administrator had already been appointed.
Less than 10 minutes into the meeting, Mr Brown saw the government notice online, officially suspending the council for three months.
By then the extraordinary meeting had briefly discussed the motion for the 2020-21 draft budget, and Cr Dorothy Robinson had proposed a list of amendments, when it came to an abrupt halt.
"Cr Robinson, we're just checking on some information, so we might just suspend council for a period of five minutes," mayor Simon Murray told the meeting as Mr Brown brought the notice to his attention.
Of course, the state government's suspension will be much longer than five minutes.
Once the meeting broadcast had stopped, Mr Brown read out the gazette notice to the councillors, informing them they were now suspended.
The mayor closed the meeting.
Putting the draft budget on public display will now be a job for the administrator, Viv May, who Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock announced would have the job of replacing the council.
After the councillors left the online meeting, three people - Simon Murray, Andrew Brown and CEO Susan Law - were in the mayor's office when the phone call came through.
David Rolls from the Office of Local Government, who had tried calling Cr Murray at the same time the meeting was starting, got through to Susan Law on her phone with two messages: the council is now suspended and we're sorry we didn't let you know sooner.
"They apologised for it going in the gazette before they notified us, but it's pathetic in some respects, because they could have rung earlier," Cr Murray said.
While the council knew it was coming, he said he was left frustrated by what he thought was a lack of respect.
"They should have told the mayor and the CEO beforehand, that's the way I think it should be done, (to say) it will be coming out this morning. But nothing!
"To be left up until the last moment, start a council meeting, only to find it in the gazette and not a phone call, that's what I find is pretty poor."
When The Armidale Express called, Cr Murray was packing up his office and was handing back his council phone, council credit card and the keys to his council vehicle.
"Someone's going to have to give me a lift home," he said.
"Now I'm just a member of the public."
The rest of the councillors were notified that they had to immediately hand in their council iPads and the swipe cards that give them access to the council building.
All their email access had already been switched off.
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