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Take Pfizer's Groton property by eminent domain?

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published March 29. 2013 4:00AM

My first reaction in reading about the latest evidence of Pfizer greed was to suggest a boycott of the company.

I know. I know. Even if everyone in eastern Connecticut were to stop using Viagra, Advil, Robitussin and Chapstick, the drug giant wouldn't notice.

Still, it would feel good to do something to make note of the company's deplorable behavior toward the people of Connecticut, deciding to tear down a big complex of buildings in Groton even while the governor and lawmakers were trying to broker a deal with a willing buyer for its reuse.

This nasty insult comes from a company that not long ago was happy to accept all kinds of Connecticut largesse, including cleaning up a brownfield and emptying an entire neighborhood in New London, to make way for a gateway to a research headquarters that the drug lords went on to abandon.

Really, it would be hard to find a worse corporate citizen than Pfizer has been in Connecticut.

Just a few years ago, Pfizer pleaded guilty to the illegal marketing of its arthritis drug and paid more than a billion in criminal fines. The company has been a repeat offender, making multiple settlements with the Department of Justice.

So, what's left?

A boycott wouldn't do much harm.

And I worry that Gov. Dannel Malloy might still reach into his deep bag of corporate giveaways and uselessly try to bribe Pfizer some more, now that they've kicked him squarely in the teeth.

But an idea raised by the spouse of a colleague this week seemed to raise some interesting opportunities, some that might have even longer legs than mere revenge.

Why doesn't Groton just use eminent domain to take from Pfizer the big campus of buildings they plan to tear down?

After all, as we all well know, the Supreme Court has ruled that it's OK to take property by eminent domain for the purpose of economic development.

Well, we've got that in the offing.

The developer that had been negotiating with Pfizer for the purchase of the buildings told The Day Wednesday that he had one tenant lined up, a bioscience company that would have employed hundreds of people.

But Pfizer said it was worried the tenant's rats might escape its laboratories, the developer said.

Clearly, Pfizer knows its rats.

Putting Pfizer in an eminent domain squeeze might be a delicious development for many who watched the drug giant benefit from the clearing of a New London neighborhood.

But using eminent domain, naturally, would not be at all punitive.

It would be about making the best use of property in a crowded, land-poor city where new economic development is needed.

Surely the drug lords at Pfizer would understand the need for a struggling small Connecticut city to do whatever it could to attract a big bioscience company promising jobs. And Pfizer executives wouldn't be made to give up their own homes, just an old set of office buildings they say they don't care about anyway.

The company's decision to tear down the buildings, because it says they are essentially worthless, could be used to calculate how much they would be paid in an eminent domain action.

If you see Gov. Malloy anytime soon, be sure tell him not to consider any more corporate giveaways for Pfizer. See if he can't round up some of the state's old experts on eminent domain.

And in the meantime, be sure and lay off the Viagra and Advil.

This is the opinion of David Collins

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