Governor DeSantis and Disney: Settling the Governance Dispute in Central Florida

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Disney and a Central Florida tourism board, supported by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, have reached a settlement in a longstanding lawsuit concerning the governance of the special district encompassing the Walt Disney World Resort.

The resolution, approved by members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, marks the conclusion of nearly two years of legal contention. Bryan Griffin, Director of Communications for Governor DeSantis, expressed satisfaction with Disney’s withdrawal of lawsuits against the new oversight district and acknowledged the invalidity of Disney’s last-minute development agreements. Griffin emphasized the importance of preventing corporations from assuming governmental roles and highlighted the commitment to fostering economic growth, family-friendly tourism, and transparent governance in Central Florida.

The dispute originated from Disney’s opposition to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, prompting the DeSantis administration to dissolve the Disney-controlled tax district granting autonomy over its theme parks.

Walt Disney World President Jeff Vahle welcomed the settlement as an opportunity for constructive engagement with the new leadership of the district, facilitating continued investment, job creation, and economic opportunities in the state.

The agreement concludes all ongoing litigation in Florida state court between Disney and the oversight board. The board, appointed by Governor DeSantis to replace the Disney-controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District, initiated legal action last year to nullify agreements deemed favorable to Disney, which were made by the previous board. The lawsuit argued that these agreements lacked public scrutiny and were skewed in Disney’s favor.

Charbel Barakat, Vice Chair of the oversight board, highlighted the district’s mission to promote public accountability and transparency in one of Florida’s key destinations. Barakat expressed pride in the district’s achievements and anticipated collaboration with Disney and other local businesses to enhance the region’s attractions and governance standards.