Maine Republicans called on their Democrat counterparts to hold Attorney General Aaron Frey accountable for an eight-month long “error in judgement” Frey confessed to Wednesday after facing questions from reporters about his sexual misconduct.
In response to an investigation by Michael Shepherd from the Bangor newspaper, Frey released a terse statement admitting that he had an inappropriate, consensual relationship with a subordinate employee.
“Beginning in August, I became involved in a personal relationship with a colleague in my office, whom I formerly supervised,” Frey said in the statement.
He said he has reorganized the chain of command in the office so he’s no longer supervising his romantic partner.
“I should have done this once we realized we had feelings for one another. It was an error in judgment and for that I am sorry,” he said.
In a statement of their own, Maine Republicans said the state’s legislative Democrats should hold Frey accountable for knowingly violating policies governing workplace harassment for the past eight months. They said Frey violated the policy set forth by the state’s policy against harassment.
Frey was elected by Democratic lawmakers in November.
“We are under no illusions that calling for Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey to resign or face appropriate disciplinary action will result in any consequences,” Republicans said.
“Therefore we ask those responsible for his election, legislative Democrats: How do you intend to hold him accountable?” they said.
Democrats so far have remained silent on the issue.
Gov. Janet Mills declined to respond to an email asking whether she was still confident in Frey’s ability to perform the job she once held.
Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) also declined to provide a statement as of Wednesday afternoon.
Neither the House Democrats’ website nor the Senate Democrats’ website have posted any press releases about Frey.
Frey has said Deputy Attorney General Christopher Taub will now supervise Frey’s romantic partner.
The AG’s office hasn’t identified who the other person is, nor whether that person is a man, a woman, or non-binary.
Frey has been popular with Democrats for his willingness to join national left-wing causes, including lawsuits defending “gender affirming” healthcare and lawsuits targeting former Republican President Donald Trump.
The Bangor newspaper obtained an email Frey sent to employees in the AG’s office copping to the relationship. That email named the subordinate employee, but the paper has elected not to publish the name.
According to the paper, the never-married Frey had been in a long term relationship with another person until February.
Republicans noted that the GOP supports multiple bills that would change Maine’s process for electing constitutional officers, like the AG, so that voters determined who Maine’s top ranking law enforcement official would be.
According to the relevant AG’s Office Harassment Policy, any behavior of a sexual nature in the workplace is considered unprofessional, regardless of whether it constitutes illegal sexual harassment. Supervisors are required to actively prevent or stop inappropriate, unprofessional conduct in the workplace regardless of whether the conduct rises to the level of illegal harassment. If they become aware of any such conduct occurring, they must take immediate and appropriate corrective action, including discipline, to end the conduct.
Frey admitted in his statement that his inappropriate conduct with a subordinate went on for eight months.
Frey only admitted to the inappropriate relationship as the result of Shepherd’s investigation.
The call for accountability from Maine Republicans comes at a time when workplace harassment policies and their enforcement have come under scrutiny across the country. It remains to be seen how legislative Democrats will respond to the call for accountability from their Republican counterparts.
Although the relationship was consensual, many people — especially feminist liberals in the wake of the #MeToo movement — have questioned whether a subordinate can ever meaningfully consent to such a relationship.