AUGUSTA, Maine — Attorney General Aaron Frey’s No. 2 was tasked with investigating his boss’ relationship with a subordinate that was made public this week.
The Democrat’s late Tuesday disclosure that he has been in a relationship since August with a married employee whom he supervised led to strong reactions in the State House on Wednesday.
Information about how his office handled it is still coming out. On Thursday, a Frey spokesperson said a complaint from outside his office kicked off an internal review for which nobody outside the office was contacted.
What’s new: After the Bangor Daily News began investigating tips about the relationship, Frey released a statement late Tuesday confirming it. Frey said his No. 2 was now supervising his romantic partner that he “formerly supervised” and apologized for not making a new supervisory arrangement sooner.
Virtually all day Wednesday, Frey did not answer key questions. In the late evening, Cara Courchesne, a communications professional hired by Frey to handle questions, confirmed Deputy Attorney General Christopher Taub only began supervising the subordinate on Tuesday.
After the complaint last week, Courchesne said Taub conducted a review finding Frey violated no rules or laws, something the attorney general said in his statement without referencing a review.
A close reading of the attorney general’s harassment policy finds that this may be correct. It does not address consensual workplace relationships. But if Frey had been a supervisor in Gov. Janet Mills’ administration, he would have been at odds with a policy requiring supervisors in relationships with subordinates to disclose them so other arrangements can be considered.
The response: Most top Democrats in Augusta were silent on Frey’s disclosure, including Mills. Senate President Troy Jackson of Allagash said through a spokesperson that he was “deeply disappointed” in Frey and that his office would be reviewing the attorney general’s policies. Legislative Republicans were harsh, with House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham of Winter Harbor saying Frey’s conduct was “concerning and disturbing.”
Frey only responded to Jackson, with Courchesne saying the attorney general understood the concerns and welcomed a review of his office’s policies.
Before Frey issued his statement on Tuesday night, both he and his romantic partner sent messages to colleagues disclosing the relationship, according to emails obtained in a public-records request. The written responses from others in the office were positive, though one of them seemed surprised.
“Wow!! He’s a great person,” one employee told the subordinate, referring to Frey. “I wish you both well.”