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Last October, Miami-Dade School Board chairman Agustin Barrera hired Howard Diston to work on his house. The job: add a storage room and renovate the terrace, a closet, and the master bathroom of the chairman's $415,000 three-bedroom residence in South Miami.
There might have been more to this than meets the eye. Diston has a full-time job as a project manager for Jasco Construction Co., a firm that has received $15 million since last July to build schools and educational facilities for county public schools. According to the company's website, Diston has managed several school construction projects.
Diston, who owns a company called D2 Construction Inc., completed the addition and renovation to Barrera's home this past December.
Barrera did not answer two messages left at the Coral Gables office of Leo A Daly Planning Architecture Engineering Interiors, where he works as operations director. Nor did he respond to an interview request submitted through his legislative aide, Carlos Saladrigas. Diston declined comment.
No one has alleged Barrera got a sweet deal from the contractor. But there's most certainly the appearance of a conflict of interest, says Ada Fennell, a board critic: "I think it's more than a coincidence that he uses a guy to renovate his house who just happens to be an employee for company that gets a lot of money from the school board."