A much-anticipated report on the conduct of Attorney General Aaron Frey — who began a romantic relationship with an assistant attorney general he supervised eight months before he publicly disclosed it — was released late last Friday afternoon as the weekly news-and-commentary cycle was ending.

It’s a time-honored Washington device to deflect unwelcome attention. In 1974, President Gerald Ford went further. He announced his pardon of Richard Nixon for all Watergate crimes early Sunday morning, when most of the nation was dressing for church.

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

In Frey’s case, it seems to have worked. There’s been hardly a peep, except for legislative Republicans, who used it to campaign for electing the attorney general rather than — as Maine does, uniquely — selection by the Legislature.

It’s a fair point, but hardly germane.

The report by a Portland human resources firm was commissioned jointly by Senate President Troy Jackson and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross. It said Frey committed an “error in judgment” but otherwise presented a picture of an exemplary workplace, making it clear only one interviewee had any real criticism.

And that was it. No recommendations for policy changes, no criticism of Frey for his “error,” and absolutely no consequences.


Nor does it seem others will act. Jackson and Talbot Ross had nothing to say.

Nor did Gov. Janet Mills, Frey’s predecessor as well as the first woman to serve as attorney general, then as governor, who might be expected to have an opinion.

This comes several years after explosive revelations from the Me Too movement of powerful men misusing power in the workplace. No one suggests such conduct by Frey; the relationship was clearly consensual.

That doesn’t mean it created no issues.

As the investigation showed, Frey had no intention of disclosing the relationship or changing the work situation with Ariel Piers-Gamble, an attorney in the Child Protective Division. The brother of Piers-Gamble’s now-former spouse, however, complained to Frey’s deputy, Christopher Taub.

The unnamed complainant was incredulous the Attorney General’s office had no policy about consensual relationships, only sexual harassment — even though the Executive Branch does have such policies, requiring disclosure.


The omission does seem odd, especially since Frey used it to assert he’d violated no policies — a classic case of circular reasoning. Also concerning is that Frey’s former partner discovered the affair via the complaint, according to her social media posts.

It was only after a reporter from the Bangor Daily News began asking questions that Frey went public about the relationship on April 4.

Frey simultaneously transferred supervision of Piers-Gamble from himself to Taub. As far as one can tell, the new arrangement seems to be working.

Yet the response, or non-response, to the report is troubling. The Attorney General’s office itself views it as vindication.

Its statement claimed the report “confirms that the workplace culture in the Office of the Attorney General is professional, respectful, and guided by a commitment to Maine people.”

Frey himself was less cocksure, saying, “I’m not just anyone . . . Even though disclosure is not required, it was owed. I did owe that transparency.”


One could say a human resources report is just that, and the AG’s office acknowledges only “the opportunity to review and update our policies.” Translation: Nothing will likely happen.

Given the presiding officers’ silence, that may be true.

Here’s what should happen: Frey’s belated actions should be reflected in policy. Anyone in a long-term intimate relationship with someone they supervise must disclose it, and not continue to supervise that person.

That’s just common sense. Relationships wax and wane, and there are good reasons why office romances are frowned upon, even if it isn’t practical or necessary to prohibit them.

Pretending nothing was wrong, and nothing should be done, saps confidence in government — especially in those whose decisions literally involve the liberty of their fellow citizens.

On the larger issue Republicans raise, change is needed. The non-action here means there’s no accountability for the attorney general from any source.


And sometimes, issues can be far more consequential.

In 1993, Attorney General Mike Carpenter reported his findings after House Speaker John Martin’s chief aide was caught tampering with ballots in two House districts, and ultimately served time in jail.

A careful review of the case shows Carpenter’s conclusion that Martin had no demonstrated knowledge of the aide’s actions was correct, but the fact that Democrats had chosen Carpenter created doubts — and eventually led to Martin’s ouster as speaker.

The attorney general still exists in that anomalous position, and will until lawmakers approve a constitutional amendment to make the post elective — as in the vast majority of other states.

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