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Mon May 24, 2010
The Governor of Goat Hill by Eddie Curran
Curran felt it was time to transform his dozens of newspaper pieces and years of interviews and research into one, comprehensive book.
By Don Noble
Audio ?2010 Alabama Public Radio
Eddie Curran was, from 1988 until the fall of 2009, a reporter for the Mobile Press Register. Curran mostly covered politics, especially the Fob James administration and then the Siegelman administration, with its various accusations, indictments, trials, sentencing and appeals. The story is not over, as there may still be a successful appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Curran felt it was time to transform his dozens of newspaper pieces and years of interviews and research into one, comprehensive book.
The book was finished in '09 and, although Curran had a commercial publisher willing to put it out, he decided to "self-publish" with iUniverse.
This decision has ramifications. It meant the book would be available to readers a year sooner, but, unfortunately, that the book, not really professionally edited and proofed, is laced with typos, misspellings, grammatical errors and other distressing infelicities. At 688 pages, it is way too long.
This is partly because Curran wants so badly to be believed, he often piles up his evidence and then repeats himself.
Make no mistake, reading this book is a long haul, a marathon, not a sprint, but it is mostly worth it. A look at the index will guide you to sections on a host of politicians, lawyers and lobbyists, jurists and jurors, construction companies, a number of Alabama's newspapers, The New York Times and a segment of 60 Minutes. Readers will find heaps to argue about.
Curran divides this gargantuan book into discussions of a number of issues.
A very important and convincing section concerns the fraud uncovered in the Goat Hill Construction Co. Goat Hill, Alabamians know, is the name of the "elevated plot chosen?as the site for Alabama's state capitol. It had been a goat pasture."
The Goat Hill Construction Co. scandal may be the single most devastating charge against Siegelman. The company barely existed but, Curran explains, was selected for the project which involved building two new state liquor warehouses. Nearly everything about this was wrong. Curran explains that the state already had a better site, the company was to be wildly overpaid, and, finally, there was submitted and paid a forged, bogus invoice for a "boundary survey" of the site. This charge persisted and was a successful part of the criminal prosecution at the end.
The jury also found Siegelman, with Richard Scrushy of HealthSouth, guilty of giving and accepting bribes to a total of $500,000. The jury found the quid pro quo, always difficult to prove in political circles where "contributions," even large ones, are common and political appointments many and varied, to be a seat for Mr. Scrushy on the C.O.N. Board, the Certificate of Need and Review Board, which "approved or denied hospital expansion plans and major medical equipment purchases."
There were many other issues, too many to take up here, and Curran has his say on all of them. Perhaps most fascinating, however, was the defense that the whole business was a political vendetta, business as usual in Montgomery, and that it was orchestrated by Republican Karl Rove, sitting in the White House. Of course, you couldn't have a better enemy than Rove, so, according to Curran, The New York Times, Harper's and CBS bought the line completely.
There is also a motorcycle purchase, and cover-up, which is downright amusing. Curran writes that there also seems to have been some harassment, after the trial, of some of the jurors who found Siegelman and Scrushy guilty and this, Curran speculates, is why the judge had the defendants taken away to prison immediately.
Even if the reader is not entirely convinced by every Curran assertion, it seems clear that the U.S. citizenry would be better off with more relentless investigative reporters, on every imaginable subject.
This review was originally broadcast on Alabama Public Radio on May 24, 2010. Don Noble's book reviews can be heard each Monday on Alabama Public Radio at 7:35 a.m. and 4:44 p.m.
Recently retired as English professor at The University of Alabama, Don's specialties are Southern and American literature. Don also hosts Bookmark on Alabama Public Television. Don's latest book is "A State of Laughter: Comic Fiction from Alabama."