Eugene Pfeifer III
Eugene Pfeifer III is a businessman and real estate developer born and raised in the city of Little Rock. Pfeifer went to Yale on a Navy scholarship. After his time in the Navy, he attended Harvard Business School, where he received his M.B.A. He came back to Little Rock and went into the family business at the Mechanics Lumber Company and later formed his own real estate business. Pfeifer has been active in the Little Rock community, developing apartment complexes for single families and a Kroger store. He is currently developing the NorthShore Business Park. Pfeifer bought the May Supply Company in 1992, the same year that Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States.
Pfeifer is former owner of 2.9 of the twenty-seven acres comprising the current site of the Clinton Presidential Center. Mr. Pfeifer's land was condemned by the city of Little Rock in 1999 so that it could become the site for the Clinton Presidential Library. Pfeifer had paid $175,000 for the land in 1992, intending to use a 70,000 square foot warehouse as a base of operations for the May Supply Company.
In 2000 Pfeifer's attorneys sued the City of Little Rock, which had hoped to acquire his land for a sum of $400,000. Pfeifer argued in court briefs that the city had no authority to take private land unless the property was reserved for public parkland. He argued that the land in question was not to be taken for this purpose in an eminent domain proceeding, as it was not previously zoned for parks. The lower court judgment went against Pfeifer.
Pfeifer filed a court appeal against the City of Little Rock in May 2001. He is quoted as saying, "[a]bsent an overriding public need, a person ought to decide whether their property gets taken or not." In a nationally-broadcast Fox News segment Pfeifer said he "[did not] approve of the way the decision was made ... to give the land to the library, and I don't approve of the way they decided to pay for it. And I'm hoping that by keeping my land I can then bargain with the library foundation to give the money back to the city, at which point they can have my land for the appraised value, the $400,000." He has also been critical of the Clintons saying, "Barbra Streisand raised $10 million for the Bill Clinton Library in one night, singing in someone's home. Why should my city give land to the greatest private fundraising organization in history?"
In the same June 4, 2001, interview Pfeifer specifically cited ongoing financial problems in Little Rock. "Our city is practically broke and can't afford the gift of the land to the library," said Pfeifer. "And only one library in this country [the Truman Library] is on land given by a city. The rest were supplied by the state as a whole or by private funds." He also noted an increase in zoo patron fees and closure of city restrooms to offset a proposed $16 million park revenue bond to pay for the various parcels of land destined for the Clinton Library. "The money specifically came from our zoo. And it came at the very point in time when our zoo lost its license and its accreditation. ... I'd like to see the money go back is to the zoo and the rest of the Parks Department that is suffering from this loss. In the two years since that was done, the restrooms have been closed in 13 of our city parks. We are suffering from this money being shunted aside to buy land for the library."
On November 1, 2001 the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled against Pfeifer in the matter of Pfeifer v. City of Little Rock: "Because the city is given broad discretion in deciding what property is necessary now and for the future ... we believe that the city's proposal and supporting documentation make it clear that Pfeifer's entire property was properly taken by the city for the presidential park."
On August 12, 2002, the Attorney General's Office filed suit as government representative for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) against Pfeifer in U.S. District Court. ADEQ sought to recover $400,000 in costs associated with the cleanup of hazardous diesel fuel which had leaked from underground tanks on Pfeifer's portion of the Clinton Library site twenty-five years earlier. Contamination of soils had been discovered by Pollution Management Inc. during a site inspection in 1999. Pfeifer's attorney Christopher Parker argued that Pfeifer could not be charged for the cleanup as Pfeifer purchased the land well after the tanks had been abandoned. Parker further cited a signed agreement between ADEQ director Randall Mathis stipulating that cleanup costs would be paid out of the federal Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund.
In April 2008 Pfeifer launched a website and a campaign designed to pressure the Clinton Foundation and City of Little Rock to act with speed to renovate the Rock Island Railway Bridge on the property of the Clinton Presidential Center. Pfeifer claimed that quick action was needed to stave off a potential liability incurred by transfer of bridge ownership to the city.
- "Clinton Library Gets Green Light," American Libraries, 32.11 (December 2001): 22-24.
- David Firestone, "A Fight Over Land for Library," New York Times, May 2, 2001.
- Mark Friedman, "Library Site Brings Pfeifer Back to Court," Arkansas Business, August 26, 2002.
- Bill O'Reilly, "Eugene Pfeifer III versus the Clinton Library," O'Reilly Factor: Fox News, June 4, 2001.
- Rhys Southan, "Shrine of Doom," Reason 33.5 (October 2001): 12-13.
- Charlotte Tubbs, "Idling Now, RR Bridge Gets Online Prod," Arkansas-Democrat Gazette, April 24, 2008.