DeSantis-appointed board sues Disney over Reedy Creek theme park's 'backroom deal'

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On Monday, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board sued the Walt Disney Company to void a development agreement reached by the company’s previous board that reeks “of a backroom deal.”

The lawsuit stated that following the Florida Legislature’s establishment of an independent board to govern the former Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), “Disney covertly cobbled together a series of eleventh-hour deals with its soon-to-be-replaced puppet government” in an effort to “stymie Florida’s elected representatives.” 

“Disney hoped to tie the hands of the new, independent Board and to preserve Disney’s special status as its own government in the District for at least the next thirty years. These agreements reek of a backroom deal—drafted by Disney with the acquiescence a lawyer who represented both Disney and the District, set for hearing without proper notice, and hustled through a compliant Disney-controlled Board that Disney knew would not dwell long on the issue,” the lawsuit, filed on Monday in Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Orange County, Florida, stated. 

“But perhaps out of haste or arrogance, Disney’s deals violate basic principles of Florida constitutional, statutory, and common law. As a result, they are null and void—not even worth the paper they were printed on,” the lawsuit added.

The Florida Governor Ron DeSantis-appointed board, the lawsuit stated, has taken measures to bring “accountability, transparency, and normalized, even-handed administration to the government Disney used to run,” including hiring an outside financial advisor, retaining an independent outside counsel, authorized the drafting of fire and building code enforcement provisions, and the hiring of an urban planner.

“When the new Board took office, it expressed to Disney its desire to work together to achieve a win-win solution that would protect Disney’s economic investment in the District while at the same time usher in a new era of accountability, transparency, and cooperation with the District’s other occupants and neighbors. Disney would have none of that,” the lawsuit read.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board stated that upon the creation of the RCID in 1967 and the subsequent building of Disney World and Epcot, “Disney’s rule was absolute.”

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