BREAKING: Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board to Sue Disney in Response to Federal Lawsuit

Shannen Ace

Partners Statue with Cinderella Castle

BREAKING: Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board to Sue Disney in Response to Federal Lawsuit

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) Board of Supervisors voted to authorize legal action against Disney Parks & Resorts and other such parties in response to Disney’s lawsuit against the board and Governor DeSantis.

The Board of Supervisors called an emergency meeting this morning to respond to the lawsuit filed against them and the Governor. They voted unanimously to file their own lawsuit, which allows them to bring causes of action against Disney.

At the beginning of the meeting, Disney Vacation Club owner Douglas Dixon, who stated he previously supported DeSantis for President, spoke out against the Board’s, DeSantis’, and the Florida legislature’s actions against Disney. He cited attempts to make the Department of Transportation inspect Walt Disney World Monorails and attractions, pointing out that this department inspected the Icon Park ride that a teenager fell from, resulting in his death. Dixon also argued against the Board’s potential taxes to support their own legal team which would be imposed on Floridians.

Chair of the Board Martin Garcia then listed all of the actions the Board has taken that they believe will make the district “more inclusive and more prosperous.”

After passing the motion to file their own lawsuit, Board member Ron Peri spoke about how the fight between Disney and DeSantis’ Board has been represented in the media. Peri said he didn’t know the Governor before being asked to join the Board and that he was happily retired but felt it was his civic duty to help. He said he had been grossly misrepresented in the press, specifically mentioning his previously spreading a conspiracy theory that tap water could make people gay. Peri stated he never said that and he doesn’t believe the conspiracy theory. The comments were made on a January 2022 Zoom discussion shared to YouTube, but the YouTube video is of course no longer available.

Disney’s Lawsuit Against DeSantis & CFTOD Board

bob iger of disney and governor ron desantis in lawsuit battle

In the suit, Disney cites “a targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.” The plaintiff further argues that this chronology of events “threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”

Among other grievances, the Governor’s threat of new tolls and taxes, and the Board’s decision to void the company’s final agreement with the Reedy Creek Improvement District Board were included in the document.

The Walt Disney Company is suing for “declaratory and injunctive relief.” Injunctive relief forces a party to act in a certain way or prevents them from doing various things. An “injunction” is sometimes known as a restraining order.

Disney regrets that it has come to this, but having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.

CEO Bob Iger previously accused DeSantis of violating the company’s First Amendment right of free speech. The company is demanding multiple items of relief be met, including:

  • A. Declare that the Legislative Declaration is unlawful and unenforceable because it abrogates Disney’s rights in violation of the Contracts Clause;
  • B. Declare that the Legislative Declaration is an unlawful taking of Disney’s property rights without payment of just compensation in violation of the Takings Clause;
  • C. Declare that the Legislative Declaration is unlawful and unenforceable because it was an arbitrary and irrational voiding of the Development Agreement and Restrictive Covenants in violation of the Due Process Clause;
  • D. Declare that the Legislative Declaration is unlawful and unenforceable because it was enacted in retaliation for Disney’s speech in violation of the First Amendment;
  • E. Declare that the Contracts remain in effect and enforceable;
  • F. Declare that Senate Bill 4C and House Bill 9B are unlawful and unenforceable because they were enacted in retaliation for Disney’s political speech in violation of the First Amendment;
  • G. Issue an order enjoining Defendants from enforcing the Legislative Declaration;
  • H. Issue an order enjoining Defendants from enforcing Senate Bill 4C and House Bill 9B;
  • I. Award Plaintiff its attorney’s fees and costs;
  • J. Grant such other relief as this Court may deem just and proper.

Origins of the Feud

The Florida Governor and Walt Disney Company initially clashed over the corporation’s opposition to a much-debated and controversial Florida law regarding classroom instruction and discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, alongside various other recent state laws and proposals in a similar vein.

Bob Chapek Side Glance

Bob Chapek was Chief Executive Officer at the time and initially remained silent and passive on the issue — until massive internal criticisms from cast members and controversy over Disney’s practice of making hefty political contributions to campaigns and individuals allegedly against their own stated human principles came into focus.

In an apparent act of retribution over Chapek’s expression of dissent, the Governor moved forward with various verbal and legal assaults on Disney, including the attempted dissolution of Reedy Creek and the eventual transfer of power directly under his control. DeSantis argues he is attacking a rather vague perception of something he calls “woke politics,” invading the state. He further says he aims to put the people of Florida first through his actions:

Disney has gotten away with special deals from the state of Florida for way too long. It took a look under the hood to see what Disney has become to truly understand their inappropriate influence.

The Governor insists he will double down on efforts to punish the resort through methods both in the Legislature and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board. Notably, he promised to hike hotel taxes and institute tolls on the roads around Walt Disney World Resort property. Additionally, a bill was recently put forth that would require state inspections of the property’s Monorails.

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Author

  • Shannen Michaelsen

    Shannen has been a Disney Parks fan and lover of dogs since childhood, despite Pluto's attempt to eat Shannen's Minnie Mouse doll the first time they met. They've made up now. You can email Shannen at shannen@wdwnt.com.