In April, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey was forced to disclose an affair with a subordinate. Five months later, his office has yet to adopt a new sexual harassment policy similar to other state agencies that would require such relationships to be disclosed immediately. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer, file

Five months after being forced to disclose an affair with a subordinate, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey has yet to adopt a new sexual harassment policy similar to other state agencies that would require such relationships to be disclosed immediately.

In April, Frey disclosed that he had been in a relationship with an employee since the previous summer. The disclosure came after a formal complaint had been filed by the female employee’s brother-in-law about the affair and reporters began asking questions about it.

Frey had remained the employee’s supervisor for about eight months before disclosing their consensual relationship. The employee was reassigned to a different supervisor on the same day the relationship was disclosed to the AG’s staff and the public.

Unlike state agencies, which require such relationships be disclosed immediately, the Office of the Attorney General has no such provision in its policy. It operates independently of the executive branch but is overseen by the Legislature.

A spokesperson for Frey said a working group has drafted a policy that will be finalized in the coming weeks.

Danna Hayes, a special assistant to the attorney general, said a working group that includes an assistant attorney general and an equal employment opportunity expert has been conducting a comprehensive review of the office’s policies.


Hayes did not respond to requests for more details about the working group, including when they began reviewing the policy and how many times they have met.

“Our Office has been engaged in carefully revising our workplace harassment policy,” Hayes said in a statement. “A working group including the Chief Deputy, the Office’s EEO Coordinator and our AAG who specializes in employment matters has spent significant time reviewing the current policy and amending several sections, including the supervisory relationships provision. The policy will be finalized in the coming weeks.”

Assistant House Minority Leader Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester, said she was disappointed by the delay. She said the Government Oversight Committee had to hire an outside attorney to represent it in its lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services over access to child protection files, because the assistant attorney general was the employee in a relationship with Frey, whose office represents DHHS.

The outside attorney now representing the oversight committee, who works for Pierce Atwood, is charging a flat fee of $25,000 to draft written briefings and present oral arguments before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Additional costs would be incurred if the Law Court remands the case back to Superior Court.

“As a member of the Government Oversight Committee, which had to hire outside legal counsel for our appeal in GOC v. DHHS, I have seen firsthand how the undisclosed relationship in the AG’s office has impacted Maine taxpayers,” Arata said. “Therefore, I had expected a more timely policy update and I am disappointed that it is taking so long, especially from a department that has expertise in dealing with legal matters such as sexual harassment and prevention policies.”

After Frey’s disclosure in April, presiding officers called for an outside review and for a new policy to be adopted.


That outside review, which cost just over $25,000 and was conducted by Deb Wentworth of HR Studio Group, found that Frey had made “an error in judgement” by not disclosing the relationship sooner, but the relationship did not cause any negative impacts on the AG’s workplace.

Wentworth didn’t recommend any specific policy changes, saying only that “what we have, I believe, is an opportunity to strengthen a policy and awareness while continuing to focus on the important work of the office rather than on a personal, consensual relationship that has found its way into the public eye for reasons only known by a disgruntled family.”

A spokesperson for House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, said her office had not received any updates about the policy development.

Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, wasn’t concerned about the delay in adopting a policy, according to his spokesperson, who said it took a year for the Legislature to update its sexual harassment and prevention policy.

“It is the Presiding Officers’ understanding that the policy has been drafted and is simply awaiting formal adoption,” Christine Kirby said. “The timeline is to be expected if the goal is to craft a thoughtful and inclusive policy that reflects input from employment law experts, human resource professionals and employees.”

The Maine Office of the Attorney General operates outside the executive branch and is governed by the Legislature. It has its own sexual harassment policy, which does not include any language about relationships between subordinates and supervisors.

The sexual harassment policy for state employees includes a provision that says “supervisors who become personally involved with a subordinate are required to report the relationship to their supervisors so that a change in reporting structure can be considered.”

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