An outside investigation into a workplace romance between Attorney General Aaron Frey and one of his employees released Friday concluded the affair was an “error in judgment” that briefly distracted agency personnel but did not tarnish the work or reputation of the state office.

The Bangor Democrat who was served as Maine’s attorney general since 2019 said he didn’t see anything wrong with his relationship with Ariel Piers-Gamble, assistant attorney general for the Child Protective Division. His error in judgment was his failure to disclose the relationship, he told the investigator.

“I don’t see a problem with the relationship,” he said during an April 27 interview. “There is consent, no favoritism, no negative or positive consequence relating to the relationship. The error was that I didn’t provide the opportunity for people to have confidence in the beginning.”

Frey admitted he didn’t know if the revelation of his office affair had changed the working environment.

“There is a small number who have complained that the relationship exists,” Frey said. “I haven’t heard anyone is having trouble doing their jobs. The team seems to be insulated from my error in judgment. … Of course, I worry that this could be a distraction from the work.”

The assessment was done by Portland human resources consultant Deb Whitworth, who served 11 years on the Maine Human Rights Commission. She was initially appointed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, and then reappointed by Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat.


The report fell short of calling for any changes in the policy on internal dating at the Maine Office of the Attorney General – other state offices require such relationships be disclosed, but the attorney general’s office has its own sexual harassment policy that does not require disclosure.

Top Democrats hired Whitworth to conduct the workplace assessment in the wake of Frey’s apology in April for not disclosing his relationship with Piers-Gamble. The affair had been going on for about eight months when the brother of her then-husband called up the office to complain.

Attorney General Aaron Frey answers a question posed by a member of the Judiciary Committee at the State House in Augusta during a hearing on May 3. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Despite the absence of a disclosure requirement, Frey said he felt he owed people transparency. “I’m not just anybody,” he said. “This was going to get some attention.”

“Of course, It’s had an impact on me personally,” Frey lamented when asked about the publicized affair. “The way in which the media has decided to characterize this, the way in which they’ve stretched it out, and I’m irritated that they’ve identified Ariel.”

He said news of the affair had not hurt his ability to relate to his co-workers, engage with commissioners or provide counsel on proposed legislation. He said it’s too early to tell if he will continue to have the full trust of state lawmakers.

Republicans said they had little faith in the findings, which were released late on a Friday afternoon.


“Pretty hard to trust this report,” Republican Party spokesman Jason Savage said. “Frey’s office had the names of those interviewed ahead of time. Looks like they’re all saying pretty much the same thing to keep the boss happy. Hard to believe the AG’s office or this report has any integrity after seeing that.”

The offices of Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, did not answer questions about whether leaders want the Office of the Attorney General to have the same disclosure requirements of interoffice romantic relationships that other state offices do.

They also would not say how much the Legislature had paid Whitworth to conduct the review.

In the end, Frey’s self-assessment during his interview with Whitworth was harsher than anything the consultant had to say about him. She wrote that she believed that Frey described the situation best when he admonished himself for making an error in judgment.

“While the OAG is held to a higher standard, those who work in the OAG, including AG Frey, are human and not infallible,” Whitworth concluded at the end of a 30-page report. “What we have, I believe, is an opportunity to strengthen a policy and awareness.”

Whitworth urged the office to focus on its work rather than a splashy but consensual relationship.


During confidential interviews, most employees told Whitworth that workplace morale remained strong despite the revelations, bouncing back after the initial headlines about the affair had died out. The most stressful part was wondering if the affair might cost Frey his job and result in a new boss, they said.

Some employees complained the revelation of the secret affair had led to courtroom chatter and anxiety in the workplace, but most of those interviewed said the office has maintained a positive, professional work environment.

“I think the office reputation was tarnished,” an unidentified worker told Whitworth. “Whether or not that’s true, it’s the perception. … It doesn’t change the way I work, but personally, it was disappointing.”

“I don’t think any of us liked it,” another worker said. “I got work done, but I didn’t get as much done for a few days. It was more about wanting to know what would happen. Were we going to get a new boss? We were all wondering about that. There was a feeling of instability for a few days and that’s gone.”

Some said the affair had been blown out of proportion.

“Humans are fallible and I understand the ethics part of it,” an unidentified employee told Whitworth. But “it has been slipping into morality judgment. This was unnecessary. We have really important work to do, and we should be focusing on that and not on this.”

The report also cleared Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris Taub, who had initially investigated the tip that Frey and Piers-Gamble were having an undisclosed romantic relationship. News leaked before Taub called the complainant back to inform him such a relationship was not forbidden in the attorney general’s office.

Taub did not write a written report on his findings. He told Whitworth that in hindsight, given all of the media attention focused on the office, he wishes that he had. In the past, however, third-party complaint investigations had all been settled by a phone call or simple letter.

Whitworth concluded the lack of a written report was not only understandable but justified.

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