Mayor denies wrongdoing as council staff claim they saw ‘nude woman’ on his screen

Mayor of Middlesbrough Andy Preston has denied the allegations (Image: Ian Cooper / Teesside Live)

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Middlesbrough's mayor has strenuously denied wrongdoing over allegations “a naked woman” was seen on his computer screen by council staff.

The local politician is facing an independent investigation after a complaint was sent to Middlesbrough Council about his conduct, reports Teesside Live.

Andy Preston, 54, has strenuously denied wrongdoing over the claims.

The North Yorkshire town's leader claimed the allegations were an attempt to discredit him – hitting out at Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald for lodging a complaint to the authority.

He claimed the allegations were an attempt to discredit him
(Image: Ian Cooper / Teesside Live)

Now he has revealed the nature of the allegations and his own account claiming what unfolded.

In a statement on Friday morning, Mr Preston said he had “never and will never be so stupid as to view inappropriate material in a work environment” – claiming he hadn't been made aware of the alleged event at the time, and wasn’t there when it happened.

The mayor added an anonymous letter sent to deputy mayor Cllr Antony High “appeared to kick off” the episode – with the missive referring to “rumours of inappropriate material” on his computer screen.

Mr Preston said he alerted council chief executive Tony Parkinson to the letter – claiming the top officer indicated it related to an incident "about a year ago" when the mayor was away from the office.

A complaint was made against the local politician
(Image: Andy Commins / Daily Mirror)

The mayor added: “He described how my office door was wide open and he could see a “GIF-like” image of a naked woman on my computer screen which was facing the door.

“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.”

The mayor said he never saw any image – and claimed the incident was never mentioned to him by anyone, nor was it reported or recorded as an issue, until four weeks ago.

Mr Preston added he believed it had “only become an issue” because of the anonymous letter.

And he claimed the council’s head lawyer “thoroughly considered the alleged incident” and decided no further action was warranted.

The complaint was made to Middlesbrough Council

The mayor then assumed that “would have been the end of the matter” – before claiming information had then been “leaked by council insiders” to Mr McDonald.

Mr Preston added: “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.”

On Wednesday, Mr Parkinson confirmed a complaint had been lodged relating to the mayor and his conduct.

The chief executive said: “We can confirm that a complaint has been received and is currently being assessed.

“There will be no further comment until that process has concluded.”

Labour’s Mr McDonald and Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, both said it was important that the allegations were fully investigated.

Mr Preston is denying the allegations and said he has nothing to hide
(Image: PA)

Now the council has confirmed an independent standards investigation is being launched.

A council spokesman said: “We can confirm that an investigation will be carried out following a standards complaint about the conduct of the Mayor of Middlesbrough Andy Preston.

“The independent investigation will take place in accordance with the council’s standards procedures.

“It would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this stage.”

Mr Preston has had numerous verbal clashes with Mr McDonald since his election last year.

Both went toe-to-toe over the now shelved 260ft Boho X skyscraper design after £600,000 design costs were revealed.

Mr Preston again aimed fire at Mr McDonald – saying they “didn’t get on”.

He added: “It’s time to turn this town around. This town deserves so much better.”

The independent mayor rounded off saying he “won’t resign” and “won’t be silenced”.

In response to the criticisms, Mr McDonald said: “There is a formal investigative process underway and I trust Mr Preston will fully cooperate with it so that this matter can be brought to a conclusion.”

Meanwhile, Mr Clarke repeated his call for a thorough investigation and urged its findings be made public.

The Tory MP said: “In light of the claim and counterclaim now issued, I would repeat my call for a thorough independent investigation – the findings of which must be made public.

"Sunlight is always the best disinfectant and the people of Middlesbrough simply expect the facts.”

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