The Feud May Be Over, but the Cronyism Remains at Desantis’ Disney Board

in Disney, Walt Disney World

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Administrator Glen Gilzean overlooking Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Credit: Inside The Magic

The war is seemingly over. After a two-year feud, The Walt Disney Company and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis buried the hatchet. Disney World has agreed to invest $17 billion in Central Florida over the next 15 years, including a potential fifth theme park. 

Ron DeSantis smiling in the foreground, with Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland, a statue of Walt Disney holding Mickey Mouse's hand, and visitors enjoying the park visible in the background. The scene is bright and colorful, capturing a cheerful moment.
Credit: Inside the Magic

Walt Disney World even settled its disagreement with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, the Board appointed by Gov Ron DeSantis to replace the Reedy Creek Improvement District. So, it appears that everything is settled. Disney World will build more in Central Florida, and Gov DeSantis can claim victory over the big corporation.

While all of this may be true, the controversy surrounding the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District continues. A new story from the Orlando Sentinel shows that the District is still giving out big contracts to DeSantis cronies courtesy of the District’s taxpayers, i.e., Walt Disney World.

Glen Gilzean came to the CFTOD as its Administrator a year ago. Earlier this year, Gov DeSantis named Gilzean the Orange County Elections Supervisor, ending his tenure with the District, or so we thought.

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

Before his stint with the CFTOD, Glen Gilzean was President of the Central Florida Urban League and a member of the state’s Ethics Commission. However, his appointment as District administrator came with a $400,000 paycheck, a substantial raise over the former Administrator for Reedy Creek.

Glen Gilzean’s hiring as District administrator caused a bit of a stir. As a member of the state’s Ethics Commission, Gilzean was forbidden from working for a public company, which is exactly what the former Reedy Creek District was. Gilzean was forced to resign from the commission. 

Gilzean’s new job as the Orange County Election Supervisor pays him $205,000 a year, a decline from his previous position, but the Board found a way to make that up to him.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Gilzean will remain with the CFTOD as a consultant through December. His new position will pay him $20,000 a month. The paper pointed out that Gilzean now makes $37,000 a month from taxpayer-funded positions given to him by Gov DeSantis.

On the left, a sunny day at Walt Disney World Resort, on the right, the new CFTOD administrator appointment by Ron DeSantis, Stephanie Kopelousos.
Credit: Inside The Magic

When asked about the agreement to keep Gilzean on for the remainder of the year, District spokesman Matthew Thomas Oberly said that he had “experience and understanding” of the organization and that his institutional knowledge would be valuable to aid new District Administrator Stephanie Kopelousos. What institutional knowledge Gilzean gained in only nine months on the job is unclear.

This is not the first time the DeSantis-appointed Board has been accused of cronyism. When Gilzean took the job, he appointed Paula Hoisington, chairwoman of the Central Florida Urban League’s Board, as his chief of staff for a salary of $195,000 yearly, a $55,000 raise over the former chief of staff.

For its legal needs, the District hired Cooper & Kirk, based in Washington, D.C. Adam Laxalt is a partner at the firm and a longtime friend of DeSantis. He was hired to lead his Super PAC during his failed run for the Republican nomination for president. The firm billed $795 an hour.

Mickey Mouse and Governor DeSantis stand in front of a castle under a spectacular fireworks display. Mickey is waving cheerfully while Governor DeSantis gestures as if presenting the event.
Credit: Inside The Magic

So, while the feud between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Disney World may be over, his cronies’ paydays continue thanks to the Board he appointed.

Should Glen Gilzean be allowed to receive $37,000 a month for taxpayer-funded jobs? 

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