Governor DeSantis Orders Criminal Investigation Into Former Reedy Creek Improvement District Board’s Agreements with Disney

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has officially ordered an investigation into potential civil and criminal violations of the previous Reedy Creek Improvement District Board of Supervisors.

DeSantis Launches Investigation Into RCID

Ron DeSantis giving a speech
Credit: Associated Press

The Executive Office of the Governor shared the following letter from Governor DeSantis to Melinda Miguel, Chief Inspector General of the State of Florida outlining the ordered investigation:

Dear Ms. Miguel:

On February 27, 2023, I signed House Bill 9-B, Reedy Creek Improvement District, Orange, and Osceola Counties, which replaced the Disney-controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) with a new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD), and appointed five new members to the CFTOD board. Recently, the new board members informed the public that they had uncovered that, immediately before the enactment of House Bill 9-B, the RCID Board of Supervisors attempted to enter into last-minute development and restrictive covenant agreements with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S., Inc. (Walt Disney World), designed to usurp the authority of the CFTOD board. These collusive and self-dealing arrangements aim to nullify the recently passed legislation, undercut Florida’s legislative process, and defy the will of Floridians. In addition, based on initial observations of counsel, the RCID board’s actions appear to suffer from serious legal infirmities, including, among other things, inadequate notice, lack of consideration, improper delegation of authority, and ethical violations, such as conflicts of interest and self-dealing.

Therefore, pursuant to Section 14.32, Florida Statutes, I formally request that you, as the Chief Inspector General of the State of Florida, in consultation with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, launch a thorough review and investigation into the actions of the RCID Board of Supervisors described above. Such investigation should include analysis of the following:

  • RCID’s adherence to applicable Florida civil and criminal laws and ethics requirements;
  • The qualifications of RCID’s prior Board of Supervisors and the legal validity of their actions;
  • The involvement of Walt Disney World employees and agents in the execution of RCID’s actions;
  • Any financial gain or benefit derived by Walt Disney World as a result of RCID’s actions and RCID’s justification for such actions;
  • All RCID board, employee, or agent communications related to RCID’s actions, including those with Walt Disney World employees and agents; and
  • All RCID board, employee, or agent communications related to House Bill 9-B, Reedy Creek Improvement District, Orange, and Osceola Counties, and the CFTOD.

Any legal or ethical violations should be referred to the appropriate authorities. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Disney and Reedy Creek’s “Overreach”

Reedy Creek Improvement District sign

The new Central Florida Tourism Oversight board, with members appointed by DeSantis, is accusing Disney of “overreach” and pursuing legal action regarding agreements publicly approved at a Reedy Creek meeting on February 8. One of Reedy Creek’s important agreements includes the Declaration of Restrictive Covenants and the Developer’s Agreement — which outlines Disney’s rights over District property for the next 30 years, regardless of what the new board says.

“They basically got everything they wanted for the many decades they’ve been operating in Florida – until now, because now there’s a new sheriff in town,” DeSantis said on Thursday, repeating the “new sheriff in town” phrase he used when he signed the Reedy Creek takeover bill into law.

Special Counsel was hired to challenge agreements Reedy Creek’s old board approved right before the new board took over. The Special Counsel indicated during yesterday’s meeting that the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District should hire more law firms to take on Disney so that everyone has an even chance. They suggested using firms with a “deeper bench,” meaning firms that have a strong team of lawyers.

The board’s legal team, Fishback Dominick LLP, Cooper & Kirk PLLC, Lawson Huck Gonzalez PLLC, Waugh Grant PLLC, and Nardella & Nardella PLLC, released this statement:

“The lack of consideration, the delegation of legislative authority to a private corporation, restriction of the Board’s ability to make legislative decisions, and giving away public rights without compensation for a private purpose, among other issues, warrant the new Board’s actions and direction to evaluate these overreaching documents and determine how best the new Board can protect the public’s interest in compliance with Florida Law.”

Disney released the following statement on Wednesday:

“All agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida Government in the Sunshine law.”

The Executive Office of the Governor reached out to WDWNT yesterday with this statement from Communications Director Taryn Fenske:

“The Executive Office of the Governor is aware of Disney’s last-ditch efforts to execute contracts just before ratifying the new law that transfers rights and authorities from the former Reedy Creek Improvement District to Disney. An initial review suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law. We are pleased the new Governor-appointed board retained multiple financial and legal firms to conduct audits and investigate Disney’s past behavior.”

DeSantis later said during a book tour event in Smyrna, Georgia, “There’s a lot of little back-and-forths going on now with the state taking control, but rest assured, you know, you ain’t seen nothing yet. There’s more to come in that regard.”

We looked over the Declaration, which includes a clause that would keep the Declaration in effect until 21 years after the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III passes away. The Declaration also states that the board cannot use any of Disney’s “fanciful characters.”

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District argues that the aforementioned agreements are unlawful and should not have been allowed. Ron Peri, who is one of the new Board Members, argued that the agreements have stripped the board of all of its power and made Disney the government. He asked that the board fight this.

Martin Garcia, the CFTOD Board Chair, discussed how powerful and rich Disney is and how they would need to take an “adversarial position” against the company. He also suggested that they take this case to the Supreme Court in “protected litigation” against Disney.

Stay tuned for future updates as the matter proceeds.

What do you think about the recent developments in the CFTOD fight against Disney? Let us know in the comments below.

Check out more of our articles on the ongoing battle with Reedy Creek here:

For the latest Disney Parks news and info, follow WDW News Today on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.