A council leader who greeted a fellow Tory councillor with ‘Hello sailor!’ is to stand down after a £50,000 probe into misconduct.
Adrian Fluker also made a ‘cut-throat gesture’ to two Conservatives who abstained from a vote.
A complaint into the matter was upheld following an internal investigation by Maldon council in Essex.
Mr Fluker, 62, claims the ‘cut-throat’ hand signal was meant to mean ‘Stop and move on’, while he was unaware of the alleged homophobic connotations of the ‘sailor’ comment.
Yesterday Mr Fluker announced he is to step down after four years on the leadership team.
He said in a statement he was leaving the post after being ‘subjected to an inordinate amount of unsubstantiated personal attacks’ on social media. The onslaught had left him and his family ‘suffering from undue stress and anxiety’, he said.
But insiders yesterday claimed the statement was a ‘smoke screen’ to cover the fact there was growing pressure for him to go among his own Conservative group.
The council launched a £50,000 probe into Mr Fluker’s conduct towards his two Tory colleagues after councillors on the standards board decided no further action needed to be taken.
The independent report accused them of bringing the council into disrepute by predetermining Mr Fluker had ‘not failed to comply with the Members Code of Conduct’.
A source said: ‘[Mr Fluker] was unpopular with the Independents because he refused to work with them and unpopular with some Conservatives because he refused to work with the Independents. He is the architect of his own downfall.’
In his statement, Mr Fluker, who was awarded an MBE for services to local government in 2015, said he had originally intended to stand down as leader in May, but this was postponed to September at the earliest due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: ‘I have recently been subjected to an inordinate amount of unsubstantiated personal attacks on both social media and other mediums which have resulted in both myself and my family suffering from undue stress and anxiety.
‘That said I have decided to step down as leader with immediate effect.’