DeSantis Board Falls Apart Amid Disney Lawsuit Onslaught

in Disney, Walt Disney World

Ron DeSantis against a lawsuit with Mickey Mouse

Credit: Inside the Magic

The board of supervisors appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis to oversee Walt Disney World seems to be falling apart in real-time as yet another of its members abruptly resigns.

Ron DeSantis in front of Disney World Cinderella Castle with the CFTOD logo
Credit: DeSantis/CFTOD/Disney, edited by ITM

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District: Origins

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) board of supervisors was installed by Governor DeSantis after he dissolved the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the special tax area around Walt Disney World. The iconic media company had run Reedy Creek as the de facto area government for decades, up until former CEO Bob Chapek expressed public opposition to the controversial “Don’t Say Gay law,” formally known as the Parental Rights in Education Act.

According to the Walt Disney Company, the far-right politician decided to make an example of the corporation and dissolved Reedy Creek in political retaliation; this triggered a First Amendment lawsuit that was recently dismissed by U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor and is currently on appeal. It also kicked off a series of legal battles between the CFTOD board and Disney that are still ongoing.

DeSantis against a courthouse with Mickey
Credit: Inside the Magic

In his typical style, DeSantis filled the CFTOD board with his political allies, many of whom have been thrust into the national spotlight for issues as varied as ethics violations (involving the Florida Ethics Commission, no less), a group sex scandal involving the state GOP chair, accusations of inside-dealing, and even a bizarre seminar that involved teaching false history about slavery in America.

Related: DeSantis Forfeits Disney Battle to Take on Bud Light, Spring Break Crowds

CFTOD Members Drop Like Flies

With that kind of track record, it is probably not all that surprising that the CFTOD board of supervisors is losing members left and right. It is worth mentioning that members of the board are appointed for four-year terms, and none of the individuals below got anywhere close to that before resigning.

The first to leave was attorney Michael Sasso, who resigned from the CFTOD board barely three months after Governor DeSantis signed it into existence. Sasso did not give an explanation for his abrupt departure, but it was speculated to have been related to his wife, Judge Meredith Sasso, being appointed to the Florida Supreme Court…by DeSantis, naturally. If so, this was a rare occasion of a DeSantis appointee leaving a position before being called out over potential conflicts of interest.

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Administrator Glen Gilzean overlooking Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Credit: Inside The Magic

That was not the case with Glen Gilzean, who until recently was the CFTOD board administrator. As alluded to previously, Gilzean was appointed to the CFTOD despite holding a position on the Florida Ethics Commission, ironically triggering an ethics clause in permissible simultaneous positions. Gilzean stepped down from the commission to maintain his CFTOD job, which has been noted for its shocking six-figure salary.

Since then, Glen Gilzean has been appointed to his third consecutive position by Governor DeSantis, this time as Supervisor of Elections for Orange County, a noted bastion of Democratic votes in the overwhelmingly Republican state. Gilzean has now resigned from the CFTOD to take up his new position; unsurprisingly, DeSantis has nominated yet another political ally, Stephanie Kopelousos, to take over the vacated administrative seat.

Now, just as the CFTOD loses its administrator, it also loses its chairman. Martin Garcia, the chairman of the board, has abruptly resigned from his position, also without explanation (per AP News). For those keeping track, three of the five board members appointed by DeSantis to oversee Walt Disney World have now quit.

Related: Senator Demands DeSantis Disney District Appoint New Leadership

Martin Garcia’s Many Chair Positions

In addition to his now-former position as chairman of the CFTOD, Martin Garcia is the chairman of Pinehill Capital, a private firm with a “minimum equity investment is $30 million,” according to its own statement. He has also served as the chairman of the Investment Advisory Council for the Florida Pension Fund System and reportedly chaired a number of NASDAQ and NYSE companies. Clearly, chairman positions come naturally to him.

Depressed DeSantis against justice scales
Credit: Inside the Magic

However, for unknown reasons, Martin Garcia is leaving the CFTOD. DeSantis spokesman Bryan Griffin issued a statement (via Orlando Sentinel), saying, “We thank and greatly appreciate Martin Garcia for his full year of service to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, having successfully navigated the transition from the former Reedy Creek District and developed a new district focused on transparency and the elimination of corporate welfare.”

DeSantis, Disney, and CFTOD Lawsuits

Despite the increasingly rapid exits of DeSantis employees, the CFTOD is still locked in numerous legal battles with Disney.

The aforementioned First Amendment lawsuit against the Governor and the CFTOD is currently headed to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit for appeal, and there are two other suits filed by Disney against the board and numerous accusations that it has been violating transparency laws by dragging its feet to provide evidence.

However, at this rate, there might not be enough board members for Disney to actually sue.

Inside the Magic reached out to the CFTOD for comment, but has not heard back by the time of publishing.

Why do you think CFTOD board members keep resigning? Let us know in the comments!

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