Ex-waterloo Alderman Is Scheduled For Trial

(reprinted from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 4, 2005)

Former Waterloo Alderman Michael Augustine is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 23 on charges of conspiring to burn down a Cahokia pizza parlor that he briefly owned.

Augustine was released from federal custody after posting $10,000 cash bond June 21.

According to the indictment, Augustine, 40, arranged to have an accomplice, William Bequette, set fire to the Pop N Pizza restaurant, at 529 1/2 Falling Springs Road in Cahokia, early on Aug. 14, 2003. Augustine had owned the business for three months and, in late July 2003, purchased a new insurance policy on the restaurant, authorities said.

The indictment states that Augustine paid Bequette $470 to set the restaurant on fire. Bequette was indicted in February 2004 by a federal grand jury on arson charges. Augustine is accused of providing Bequette with gasoline and containers to set the fire.

Augustine is also charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, witness intimidation and use of fire to commit a felony.

Augustine’s attorney, Scott Rosenblum, said his client is not guilty and looks forward to being vindicated in a courtroom.

Augustine moved to Waterloo shortly after he lost his bid to become Cahokia mayor and became a supporter of current Waterloo Mayor Terry Kipping. Both were active in the local Democratic Party, and Augustine worked as a campaign adviser to Kipping in his 2003 mayoral election. Shortly after his election, Kipping appointed Augustine to fill a 2nd Ward City Council vacancy.

The appointment drew questions because Augustine was a newcomer to the city. Verlyn Smith, who was Waterloo mayor from 1987 to 1995, said it "was never a practice of the city to appoint someone that new to the city council."

Kipping could not be reached for comment.

Augustine’s tenure as alderman was not without controversy.

In March, Augustine made news by publicly shouting at Jim Nagel, a city council candidate and current alderman, before a regular city council meeting. Augustine said Nagel was circulating a flier around town spreading lies.

Alderman Rita Trantham defeated Augustine in the April election by nearly 200 votes.

While serving as alderman, Augustine worked to establish a neighborhood watch program.

Charles Metzger, a Waterloo alderman who served with Augustine, said he was surprised to learn the details of the charges, but that Augustine was a good public servant.

"He always impressed me," Metzger said. "He did a very good job for the city."