An elected mayor has refused to resign over an allegation that he had an image of a naked woman on his laptop, saying he is the victim of a “dirty tricks” campaign.
Middlesbrough’s Independent mayor, Andy Preston, said his conscience is clear and he has nothing to hide, following an official complaint by local Labour MP Andy McDonald.
Middlesbrough Council is carrying out an inquiry into the claims.
Writing on Facebook, Mr Preston claimed: “Sinister things are happening to try and force me to resign.
“That won’t happen because I’m 100% committed to shaking up the way this town works.
“This latest plot to try to discredit me is the lowest so far.”
The Bizarre Truth Behind Andy McDonald's ComplaintSinister things are happening to try and force me to resign. That…
Mr Preston said he has gone public with his side of the story as he has “nothing to hide”.
He added: “It will give people an inkling of the dirty tricks and twisted underhand tactics that seems to be the accepted norm of politics in Middlesbrough.
“First and foremost, I have never and will never be so stupid as to view inappropriate material in a work environment.”
The mayor, a former hedge fund manager, claimed the alleged event happened around a year ago when he was out of the office and that he was not told about it at the time.
He said an anonymous letter was recently sent to his deputy, saying there is a political plot against the mayor, and it referred to inappropriate material on this computer screen.
Mr Preston said he spoke to the council’s chief executive, who told him this might be a reference to a “GIF-like” image seen on Mr Preston’s laptop when he was at a meeting many miles from the office.
Mr Preston said: “He said it was the kind of thing that could be seen in newspapers.
“He told me he asked a member of staff to remove the image before I came back to the office.
“Not only did I never see any such image; this alleged incident from about a year ago was never mentioned to me by anyone and was never reported or recorded as being any kind of issue – until just four weeks ago.”
Mr Preston said the council’s most senior legal officer looked into it and decided no further action was needed.
He claimed that details were then leaked to Mr McDonald, adding: “It’s fair to say we don’t get on.”
The mayor said the MP then made a formal complaint about the matter and told the media about it.
He said: “It is a painful and difficult experience for me and my family to have such allegations and slurs directed towards me when I can’t even defend myself because I wasn’t there and didn’t see any such image.
“I have no idea how the alleged image ever appeared but I know that I have done absolutely nothing wrong.”
In October, Mr Preston made headlines when he said Middlesbrough would “defy” the Tier 2 lockdown measures after they were announced.
He also created waves when he shut the town’s parks during the first lockdown – against government advice – and it was pointed out by some that he was a millionaire living on a country estate.
Mr McDonald said: “There is a formal investigative process under way and I trust Mr Preston will fully co-operate with it so that this matter can be brought to a conclusion.”