AUGUSTA, Maine — The top Democrat in the Maine Senate joined legislative Republicans in criticizing Attorney General Aaron Frey after he disclosed a months-long relationship with an office employee he supervised.
Frey issued a statement late Tuesday saying he has been in a romantic relationship since August with someone he supervised. The Democrat said he has since assigned a deputy to oversee his romantic partner, apologizing for “an error in judgment” in not doing so sooner while declining to say when the supervisory arrangement changed.
He has said his relationship did not violate state law or his office’s rule. It remains at odds with the harassment policy governing most state workers, which says supervisors in relationships with subordinates should disclose them so alternate arrangements can be considered.
Gov. Janet Mills and other key Democrats were silent on the news aside from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash.
His spokesperson issued a statement saying her boss was “deeply disappointed” in Frey and that the office would be taking a look at whether proper policies are in place to safeguard employees.
“The Attorney General’s actions — his lack of transparency and failure to immediately update the reporting structure — reflect poorly on him and the office he holds,” Jackson spokesperson Christine Kirby said.
Frey responded to Jackson in a statement from Cara Courchesne, a spokesperson outside of state government, saying he understood the concerns and was committed to a review of office policies.
“He will continue to cooperate and work with [legislative] leadership in a bipartisan, transparent, and productive manner to address their concerns and preserve the integrity of the Office of the Attorney General,” Courchesne said of Frey.
Spokespeople for Mills, who was Frey’s predecessor as attorney general, and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, did not respond to requests for comment. The two Democrats leading the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Anne Carney of Cape Elizabeth and Rep. Matt Moonen of Portland, did not respond to emails and calls seeking comment.
Legislative Republicans issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon that rhetorically asked what Democrats would do to hold Frey accountable, noting the attorney general is elected by a majority of the Legislature and their legislative proposals to make the position popularly elected.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, addressed the situation by saying “the more I read, the worse it seemed to get.”
“To be having relations with someone in his employment is very concerning and disturbing,” House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, said. “I’ve got concerns with him being in that position after committing conduct like that.”