DeSantis Disney Board Abruptly Backtracks After Inside Trading Accusations, Cancels Deal

in Disney, Walt Disney World

A glum-looking Ron DeSantis in front of Mickey Mouse moving suitcases at Disney World

Credit: Fox News/Inside the Magic

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his handpicked Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board of directors, which oversees the Walt Disney World area, suddenly canceled a $242,000 no-bid contract after allegations of improper inside dealing were made public.

Ron DeSantis speaking and looking down
Credit: Wikimedia

It is an understatement to say that the relationship between presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis and Disney has gone downhill in the last year, given that there are multiple different lawsuits in courts and the House of Mouse recently accused the governor of “profoundly un-American” actions.

Although the Walt Disney World theme park is one of Florida’s largest employers (in fact, the Walt Disney Company is responsible for one in every 50 jobs in the state), the company ran afoul of the governor after former CEO Bob Chapek publically opposed the controversial Parental Rights in Education Act, better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Related: Former DeSantis Ally Turns, Sends 1,200 Employees to Party at Disney

Reedy Creek and Central Florida

Shortly thereafter, DeSantis dissolved the Reedy Creek Improvement District that had allowed Disney World to essentially act as Central Florida local government; the company has accused the governor of abusing his governmental powers in retaliation to its First Amendment-protected free speech.

DeSantis in front of Disney logo
Credit: Inside the Magic

To replace Reedy Creek, DeSantis created the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and selected his own board of directors, who swiftly began dismantling long-held Disney infrastructure. Among other things, DeSantis announced that the board would do away with “no-bid procurements” in what was largely perceived as an allegation of financial mishandling by Disney.

Now, that announcement has come back to bite.

A $242K 911 Contract

DeSantis and his Disney-controlling board came under fire this last week when it was discovered that a no-bid contract with Figgers Communication, a Florida telecommunications company, to update its 911 emergency call system. Clearly, this is directly contrary to the governor’s claim that no-bid contracts would be a thing of the past.

It got even worse for DeSantis and the board when it was determined that Figgers Communication founder Freddie Figgers had previously served on the Florida Commission on Ethics with Central Florida Tourism Oversight District administrator Glen Gilzean. At the very least, the direct relationship between the two creates the impression that Figgers received the contract due to his political connections.

Glen Gilzean Becomes New Administrator for Disney’s Governing District, Will Earn as Much as a US President
Credit: Inside the Magic

To make things even more murky, both Figgers and Gilzean were appointed to the Ethics Commission by none other than Governor DeSantis.

And to raise the ante just a little bit more, Gilzean himself only stepped down from the Ethics Commission (on which Figgers still serves) after he was accused of an ethical conflict of interest by serving on both the board and the commission.

Contract Canceled

Now, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District administration has announced that the 911 contract has been canceled, reportedly at the request of Freddie Figgers (per the Orlando Sentinel). District director of external affairs Matthew Oberly says, “They [Figgers Communication] do not wish to continue under the current atmosphere and wish to participate in a bidding process instead, which is unfortunate as now we will have to start over.”

Although the district and Figgers have denied any financial impropriety or inside trading, it certainly appears they now want to onus to be placed on the public for demanding transparency and blaming the information for triggering the bidding process, which the governor himself insisted would be the norm.

Ron DeSantis
Credit: WikiMedia

Related: Judge Confirms Disney Is Right, DeSantis Was Wrong

Remaining Questions for the District

Matthew Oberly has defended the no-bid contract, saying it met the purchasing criteria for waiving the bidding process, and that no favoritism was involved. On the other hand, an internal district email revealed that Figgers had been directly connected to the purchasing officer by Glen Gilzean’s staff.

Additionally, the district has been unable to provide any 911-related projects that Figgers Communications has performed that would indicate its qualifications.

At least for now, the 911 update contract is up for bid, making this just one more weird chapter in the complicated and murky story of DeSantis and Disney.

Does the official district story about the 911 no-bid contract seem on the level? Give us your take in the comments below!

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