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.
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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."