DeSantis’ new Reedy Creek board reportedly blindsided by sneaky ‘last-ditch’ move by Disney’s old guard

Following the passage of Florida’s House Bill 9B, Governor Ron DeSantis boldly declared to Disney “there’s a new sheriff in town” and set about appointing a handpicked group of conservatives to a new board that would oversee Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, stripping the entertainment giant of its long-standing ability to self-govern in the Sunshine State.

With a freshly minted name — the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District — the five appointed board members were to ensure that Disney will now “pay their fair share of taxes and honor their debts,” DeSantis vowed.

“The newly appointed members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District include Bridget Ziegler, a vocal proponent of DeSantis’s education policies, including the Parental Rights in Education bill dubbed by critics as the ‘don’t say gay’ law that Disney leaders opposed last year,” The Washington Post reported in February. “Also named to the board: Ron Peri, who heads the Gathering USA, a Christian ministry, and three attorneys, including the president of the Federalist Society’s Orlando chapter.”

But in a plot twist DeSantis apparently didn’t see coming, as the governor was setting up the new board, the old Disney-controlled board quietly turned over all its power to Disney in perpetuity, leaving the governor holding what is effectively a bag filled with little more than pixie dust.

Reports the Orlando Sentinel:

Ahead of an expected state takeover, the Walt Disney Co. quietly pushed through the pact and restrictive covenants that would tie the hands of future board members for decades, according to a legal presentation by the district’s lawyers on Wednesday…

The previous board, which was known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District and controlled by Disney, approved the agreement on Feb. 8, the day before the Florida House voted to put the governor in charge.

Board members held a public meeting that day but spent little time discussing the document before unanimously approving it in a brief meeting.


Disney released an unsigned statement, calling the deal with the District “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,” it read.

Now essentially stripped of their power, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Directors took a vote and decided to “bring in outside legal firepower to examine the agreement, including a conservative Washington, D.C., law firm that has defended several of DeSantis’ culture war priorities,” according to the Sentinel.

“We’re going to have to deal with it and correct it,” said board member Brian Aungst Jr. “It’s a subversion of the will of the voters and the Legislature and the governor. It completely circumvents the authority of this board to govern.”

The sneaky Reedy move was characterized as “last-ditch efforts” to transfer the old guard’s “rights and authorities” from the District to Disney by DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske.

“An initial review suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law,” Fenske said in a statement. “We are pleased the new governor-appointed board retained multiple financial and legal firms to conduct audits and investigate Disney’s past behavior.”

The agreement was approved by the previous board on Feb. 8, just one day before the Florida House handed the keys to the Magic Kingdom over to DeSantis.

“This essentially makes Disney the government,” board member Ron Peri said. “This board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintain the roads and maintain basic infrastructure.”



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