Leaked Documents Show DeSantis’ Board Completely Remaking Disney District

DeSantis Board remaking Disney District
Credit: Disney

When the Central Florida Tourism Oversite District took over for the Reedy Creek Improvement District earlier this year, the Walt Disney Company stripped the new Board of its power. With the help of Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature, the CFTOD was able to claw back some of that power. But since then, the new Board of DeSantis appointees have worked full-time to show Disney who was in charge.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District has cut $8 million in funding from security at Disney World, cut $3 million in road improvements to pay for legal fees in its cases against Disney, and, in August, cut all DEI programs and race-based hiring programs in the former Reedy Creek District. It’s the latter that is coming into focus thanks to new documents.

reedy creek

Images Credit: Disney, National Urban League

The Orlando Business Journal has obtained documents from the Board and its attorneys highlighting the reasoning behind removing the Disney District’s Minority/Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) hiring programs.

The Documents

One of the documents received by the OBJ is a memo from attorney David Thompson to the Board’s Chairman, Martin Garcia. In the memo, Thompson said RCID staffers admitted they paid “above market” rates for projects to comply with the programs. Thompson also called the programs”un-American,” a term that the Board would later use as a rationale for removing the programs. Thompson also said that removing the programs would protect the Board from “future liability.”

Mickey Mouse and Ron DeSantis

Credit: Disney/ Gage Skidmore Flickr

In response to the memo obtained by the OBJ, a district spokesperson said:

The program was ended because it was illegal and un-American. Any cost-saving benefit would be an additional benefit. The District is shifting the contracting process to favor local and veteran-owned businesses. 

Thompson’s memo goes on to blame the RCID for the elimination of these programs, saying:

Had RCID conducted a statistical analysis and maintained supporting anecdotal evidence indicating historical or ongoing racial discrimination in the District’s contracting their MWBE/DBE programs may have been able to withstand strict scrutiny. 

Court Cases

The CFTOD sued Disney in State Court to void any deals with the previous Board. Disney countered by claiming that the Florida Legislature had already withdrawn those deals by passing Senate Bill 1604. But Orange County Circuit Court Judge Margaret Schreiber decided the case should proceed.

DeSantis hometown hurt by Disney feud.

Credit: Flickr: Florida Game and Wildlife/Disney

Disney then countersued the Board, seeking unspecified damages for the new Board violating its contract with the RCID. Disney also has a lawsuit in Federal Court against Governor DeSantis claiming government retaliation for the company exercising its First Amendment Rights after Disney spoke out against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, known by its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Board Controversies

Legal cases aside, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District has not been without its controversies. Board Administrator Glen Gilzean was forced to resign from Florida’s Ethics Commission after he took the $400,000 a year job at the Board. The Florida Ethics Commission forbids any members from holding any public sector job. The conflict only came to light after an article in the Florida Bulldog.

Glen Gilzean Disney Diversity

Glen Gilzean, Ron DeSantis, and Bob Iger in front of Cinderella Castle

Related: Disney’s Case Will End in the Florida Supreme Court, Where Conflict of Interest Awaits Them

The Board also ran into problems with the Reedy Creek firefighters after cutting $2.5 million from the Disney World season passes budget and discounts on food, merchandise, and hotels at the Disney World Resort. The Board originally called the money a “scheme to defraud” taxpayers, but it later learned that the perks were benefits given to Reedy Creek employees for life and were considered a part of the job.

The fight over the Walt Disney World District will continue in both Federal and State Courts. Disney still maintains that it should continue to have its special District, while Florida Gov Ron DeSantis maintains that he was within Florida Law.

In the meantime, the Florida taxpayers are footing the legal bills for Gov DeSantis and the Board members. And the fight over Disney World special District is just getting started.

We will continue to update this story at Disney Fanatic.

About Rick

Rick is an avid Disney fan. He first went to Disney World in 1986 with his parents and has been hooked ever since. Rick is married to another Disney fan and is in the process of turning his two children into fans as well. When he is not creating new Disney adventures, he loves to watch the New York Yankees and hang out with his dog, Buster. In the fall, you will catch him cheering for his beloved NY Giants.

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