Gregory Dillon, a former FBI agent and 19-year employee of the Connecticut Office of the Chief State’s Attorney, says a public library he has long patronized is denying him the opportunity to host an event to discuss his book, The Thin Blue Lie.
The book, published by Bombardier Books, details his experiences as a whistle-blower while working at the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney and his freedom of speech lawsuit that resulted in a jury issuing over $1 million in compensatory and punitive damages in 1998.
Dillon, a North Haven resident who lives on the border of Wallingford, says that although he has hosted several successful author events at other libraries, Wallingford Public Library has refused him multiple times, not even allowing him to reserve the community room to hold his own event, which he says would be free to the public.
Dillon says he continues to press the issue with the library because he’s been a long-time patron, knows many people in town and that it is a public library, rather than a private bookstore.
“It’s a public library. It’s funded by taxpayers,” Dillon said. “I don’t think [Library Director Jane Fisher] has the authority to decide who she likes to come in and speak and who she doesn’t, especially under the circumstances that it is a popular book that they carry, they have in their library and patrons continuously are trying to check out.”
According to Wallingford Library’s online portal, there are five copies of Dillon’s book that are all checked out from various area libraries, including Wallingford’s library, and four people on the wait list to borrow the book.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me, and I resent it and it becomes a First Amendment issue,” Dillon said. “I’m being banned from speaking at a local library over subject matter that is not particularly controversial.”
According to emails between Library Director Fisher and Dillon, Fisher listed several different reasons for not hosting the event.
“We host only a handful of individual author events over the course of the year, and we strive in those events to host authors that are authors of books that have appeared on bestseller lists,” Fisher wrote in a June 21 email.
“We get scores of offers from adult programmers–author visits, lectures, workshops, etc. Every program we offer requires resources, including calendar scheduling & room set-up, publicity & promotion, and staff time to coordinate and oversee the event. Our resources for programming are limited and we have to pick and choose what we offer,” Fisher wrote in another email. “I realize this sounds harsh, but when it comes to our public program offerings, our obligation is to our patrons rather than to presenters seeking an audience.”
Dillon’s attempt to reserve the community room was denied because the library does not allow the rooms to be used for “commercial use” or “private individual use,” according to the library’s policy online. Dillon says his event would have been open to the public and free of charge, which he included in his application.
Reached for comment, Fisher reiterated her previous reasons for not hosting Dillon, noting the library’s community room is not available for use by individuals but rather for library or community groups to hold “educational, civic, and/or cultural programs.”
“Mr. Dillon recently joined other local authors at the Wallingford Public Library’s Local Author Showcase. We are sorry that he did not find that event to be satisfactory,” Fisher wrote in an email. “Mr. Dillon donated a copy of his book to the Wallingford Public Library, and we are pleased to have it in our collection. We are likewise glad to hear that the readings he has offered at other locations have been well attended.”
“I’m baffled and troubled by, first of all, the lack of any interest, and then the changing reasons why it’s not appropriate to speak there,” Dillon said. “I cannot, for the life of me, understand why there is such resistance to me participating at a library I have attended and supported for years.”
Dillon was retaliated against by Connecticut Chief States Attorney John Bailey in 1998, after he raised the alarm over the FBI falsifying or embellishing arrest warrants, resulting in demotion and transfer from a joint fugitive task force.
The court eventually determined Dillon’s free speech rights had been violated and a jury awarded settlement.