DeSantis appoints Tampa lawyer, ‘Jeopardy!’ champion to Disney property oversight board

Charbel Barakat replaces Michael Sasso

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District meeting on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. (Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – The board that oversees Walt Disney World property has a new member.

Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Charbel Barakat to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District on Friday.

Barakat, a Tampa-based attorney for homebuilder DR Horton, Inc., replaces Michael Sasso, who resigned last week as DeSantis appointed Sasso’s wife, Meredith to the Florida Supreme Court.

Sasso was one of the original five members of the board overseeing Disney property after Florida lawmakers dissolved the former Reedy Creek Improvement District as part of DeSantis’ feud with the Walt Disney Company over the Parental Rights in Education law.

Barakat already serves on two state boards as a DeSantis appointee for the Second District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission and on the Florida Development Finance Corporation.

State and federal records show Barakat has contributed thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and groups over the last few years, including to DeSantis in 2022.

Barakat is also vice president of Tampa’s chapter of the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal group, as well as chairman for the Volume Builders Council for the Florida Home Builders Association.

The New York University School of Law graduate was also a one-day champion on the trivia game show “Jeopardy!” in 2018.

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About the Author:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.