DeSantis Board Accused of Inside-Dealing After Lawyer Given $500 per Hour Pay

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The former Reedy Creek signage inside of Magic Kingdom Disney Park in Disney World with Ron DeSantis looking shocked.

Credit: Inside The Magic

Just when you thought the current DeSantis board could not sink any lower, a new report allegedly confirms that the now Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD), now under Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, might be conducting insider dealing.

Ron DeSantis grimacing in from of Walt Disney World castle
Credit: ABC/Inside the Magic

The DeSantis Board vs. Disney World Lawsuit

Not to get this lawsuit mixed up with the current case between Ron DeSantis and Walt Disney World (WDW), here’s a quick update on what’s happening. The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) governs Disney World, an entertainment resort complex in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The district was formerly called the Reedy Creek Improvement District. 

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, the governing district for the Walt Disney Company in Florida, has been involved in a fight with Disney since April. Disney has sued the district and its board in federal court in Tallahassee, claiming that its free speech rights were violated. Disney is also battling the community in state court in Orlando. 

Some changes that have occurred in the district since Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appointed the new board include: 
  • Employee exodus: Reports from within the district say that it is no longer functional after a mass exodus of employees
  • Abolishment of DEI programs: The district abolished all of its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs
  • Increase in building fees: The district is proposing a roughly 30% increase in building fees
The district also considers a lower tax rate for Disney and property owners. There have been a few updates since April on this ongoing legal battle.
Glen Gilzean Becomes New Administrator for Disney’s Governing District, Will Earn as Much as a US President
Credit: Inside the Magic

Some recent updates have happened on this significant lawsuit. The CFTOD filed a motion for summary judgment in its state lawsuit against Walt Disney World. This motion could potentially bypass the need for a trial. The court date for summary judgment is December 12, 2023. The CFTOD also filed a motion to dismiss a countersuit brought against the district and Governor DeSantis by Disney.

The CFTOD is also investing a million dollars in a new communication network and completely separating from the Walt Disney World system. But the most significant update was the 30% increase in building fees the CFTOD implemented on the Disney Parks in Orlando. Some other recent updates include:

  • The CFTOD asked the state to probe $2M paid to Disney for perks.
  • Disney district workers criticized DeSantis appointees’ decision to eliminate free passes.
  • The Florida Ethics Commission chair resigned but stayed with the Disney district job.
  • The pact shifted control over design and construction at Disney World from the district to the company.
  • The pact prohibited the district from using the likeness of Disney characters or other intellectual property without Disney’s permission.

But now, the district that governs the House of Mouse is being accused of insider trading again.

a grey photo of the front sign of Reedy Creek inside Walt Disney World.
Credit: Inside The Magic

A recent report has been released detailing some shocking information about the DeSantis board and how they have been conducting in inside-trading deals. According to the report, two weeks ago, it came to light that members of the governor’s new Disney district awarded a $240,000 contract to a political insider without opening the opportunity for other companies to bid. Notably, this no-bid contract was granted to a person holding a prominent position as one of the state’s top ethics officials. However, recent revelations indicate that this initial incident was just the tip of the iceberg regarding insider dealings within the former Reedy Creek district.

In another instance, a political connection benefited from a no-bid deal under more dubious circumstances. The district’s board chairman awarded a $495-an-hour legal contract to a lawyer who had contributed to the chairman obtaining his supervisory role overseeing Disney. During the chairman’s appointment confirmation process, he had listed the lawyer as a reference. Subsequently, after securing the position, the chairman voted to award the lawyer’s law firm the lucrative contract, sidestepping consideration of other firms. This situation has raised legitimate concerns regarding the ethical standards the Disney board upholds.

It was revealed that a former board member, instrumental in aiding the district director in securing a $400,000-a-year job, held the role of best man at the director’s wedding. These occurrences collectively paint a less-than-favorable picture, portraying the entity more as a fraternity of political profiteers than a transparent public agency. Such revelations prompt questions about the appropriate use of tax dollars in this context.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis with the Magic Kingdom Disney World Park in the background.
Credit: Inside The Magic

The inside-trading and inside-dealing allegations are being produced from the notion that aside from the $400,000 annual salary for the DeSantis board members, a lawyer hired for one of the board members, who also got the role, is now on their payroll, reaching nearly $500 per hour, without other firms having the chance to enter their bids. The men involved know each other well, leading to others accusing the CFTOD of these shocking allegations. You can read the entire article and report from the Orlando Sentinel by clicking here.

There is no news on any investigations or legal charges being made to address this situation adequately. Time will tell how this will turn out, but for now, follow Inside The Magic for more news and updates on these legal matters.

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