DeSantis-picked state board says Disney stripped its powers
The board members tapped by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to oversee the governance of Walt Disney World said Wednesday that their more Disney-friendly predecessors had on the way out the door passed a development agreement that effectively ties the new group’s hands.
The members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, who were handpicked by DeSantis to rein in Disney, said that the previous members of the Reedy Creek Improvement District last month signed an agreement with the company that gave it developmental authority over its theme park.
DeSantis has publicly clashed with Disney after the entertainment giant came out against the his education plan that limits the instruction of sexuality and gender identity in public schools, which critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” measure. DeSantis last year signed a bill that dissolves the private government controlled by Disney in the state.
But the last-minute move by the Reedy Creek board last month strips the DeSantis appointees of their ability to manage the company’s development in the state, the new members said. They blasted the move by their predecessors, which they say they only found out about recently.
“This development agreement … was passed the same day the Florida House passed the bill creating this board,” board member Brian Aungst said at the meeting. “It was done to prevent us from doing our job.”
Fellow member Ron Peri added that with the changes, “this board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintain the roads and maintain basic infrastructure.”
DeSantis also criticized the move in a statement to local news affiliate WESH, saying he thinks the agreement is “likely void as a matter of law.”
“The 11th hour effort to undercut the will of Florida voters and that the contracts that were shoved through at the last minute are very likely void as a matter of law,” the statement said.
Disney said in a statement to The Associated Press that all the agreements between the company and the state “were appropriate.”
“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 statement said.
The board has voted to bring in outside legal counsel to examine the agreement.
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