Australia’s largest land council abruptly announced its CEO quit last week without announcing his replacement or offering further explanation - including how a transition period will function.
The Northern Land Council released a statement on Wednesday evening which appears to have fuelled subsequent news reports about friction within the organisation.
The council said that Joe Morrison, who has been CEO since 2014, “resigned for personal reasons and that it was time to explore other opportunities”.
The four-paragraph media release did not directly quote Mr Morrison and ended cryptically by declaring that: “Mr Morrison will not be saying anything more at this time.”
Under his leadership, the council has claimed several native title victories in the Northern Territory, including in Booraloola and Kenbi, and helped advance Indigenous economic interests.
Mr Morrison frequently criticised the federal government over issues including water rights, a perceived lack of progress on 'closing the gap' and the decision not to establish an official 'voice' to parliament representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples.
“It was always my intention to get a number of key issues resolved or at least on the way to being resolved during my time at the NLC,” he wrote in an email to staff on Wednesday and published by The Australian.
“I have a sense of achievement with many of these off my list or on the way to being resolved.
“I will work with the council on an appropriate exit strategy including a departure date.”
But a report in the Sunday Territorian suggested that Mr Morrison’s role may have been jeopardised by an alleged extramarital affair with an employee which resulted in a rift with the council’s chairman, Samuel Bush-Blanasi.
A spokesperson for the council would not comment or offer detail about the reasons for his resignation.
“We can confirm that Joe Morrison is still the CEO of the NLC and will be here until March 2019,” she told NITV News.