The new board, renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District by legislators after DeSantis signed a bill in February handing control of the district over to the state government, had made a last-minute deal granting Disney power over the district’s development rights.
In a letter, DeSantis responded to Disney’s move.
“These collusive and self-dealing arrangements aim to nullify the recently passed legislation, undercut Florida’s legislative process, and defy the will of Floridians,” the governor’s letter read, in part. “In addition, based on initial observations of counsel, the RCID board’s actions appear to suffer from serious legal infirmities, including, among other things, inadequate notice, lack of consideration, improper delegation of authority, and ethical violations, such as conflicts of self-interest and self-dealing.”
The governor formally requested that his office’s Chief Inspector General, with help from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, to investigate the Reedy Creek Improvement District and its adherence to state civil and criminal laws and ethics requirements, the qualifications of the prior board of supervisors and the legality of their actions, the involvement in Walt Disney World employees and agents in the execution of these actions, any financial gain or benefit derived from the company as a result of these actions and all board, employee or agent communications relating to these actions, HB 9B, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, Orange and Osceola counties and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, including messages with Walt Disney World employees and agents.
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The Reedy Creek Improvement District made the moves weeks before DeSantis actually signed the bill at a Feb. 8 public meeting during which the board’s president took up the first of two agenda items that would ultimately give Disney enormous control over the development of its resort property while stripping away the special district’s future power.
The company maintained it acted properly.
“All agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law,” the company said.
Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger also addressed DeSantis’ request to investigate the theme park giant over the special district board’s transfer of power.
“So our point on this is that any action that supports those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida, and I’ll just leave it at that,” Iger said.
DeSantis’ Communications Director Taryn Fenske responded to the company’s statement on Monday.
“While a company has First Amendment rights, it does not have the right to run its own government and operate outside the bounds of Florida law,” Fenske said. “The Florida Legislature and Gov. DeSantis worked to put Disney on an even playing field, and Disney got caught attempting to undermine Florida’s duly-enacted legislation in the 11th hour.”
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