AUGUSTA, Maine — Attorney General Aaron Frey put his romantic partner under the supervision of a deputy just minutes before they disclosed their relationship to colleagues and less than an hour before issuing a news release on the subject.
The Democrat issued a statement late April 4 saying that he had been in a relationship with an office employee whom he “formerly supervised” since August, saying it was an “error in judgment” to not disclose it sooner. Legislative leaders announced an independent review of his handling of the matter that is expected to be finished by the end of this month.
Documents from Frey’s office show the attorney general moving over roughly 50 minutes to reassign his romantic partner, alert colleagues to the relationship and announce it publicly. All of those actions came just hours after the Bangor Daily News began investigating tips it had received about the relationship over the past week.
The attorney general emailed a memo obtained Tuesday by the BDN to key members of his staff at 9:44 p.m. on April 4 saying he was delegating supervision of his romantic partner to Deputy Attorney General Christopher Taub, the No. 2 person in the office, saying he would not be allowed to discuss “any matters” relating to the subordinate’s supervision.
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That memo was issued after brief conversations with Taub and other affected members of the office, said Danna Hayes, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office.
Frey’s romantic partner, whom the BDN has not named because they are not held to the same standard as the attorney general, emailed members of their division roughly 11 minutes after Frey’s memo disclosing the relationship. The attorney general sent a similar message to staff 11 minutes later at 10:07 p.m. The news release was sent to Maine media outlets by Cara Courchesne, a media relations professional working privately for Frey, at 10:33 p.m.
“I should have done this once we realized we had feelings for one another,” Frey said of disclosing the relationship and reassigning his partner in that statement. “It was an error in judgment and for that I am sorry.”
Frey has never been married, but he had been in a relationship with a long-term partner whom he lived with until February. The spouse of the attorney general’s partner and subordinate filed for divorce before the relationship was made public.
A review by Taub determined that Frey had not violated any office policies or laws, but that is only because the attorney general’s office stands alone due to the position being elected by the Legislature. The policy governing most of the state workforce emphasizes that supervisors who begin relationships with subordinates in most state jobs should disclose them.