Glen Gilzean has been added to the list of defendants in an ongoing lawsuit between Disney and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Earlier this month, Gilzean was chosen by the CFTOD Board to serve as the district’s Administrator, a role he accepted and officially began on May 10. The job comes with a $400,000 annual salary, bumped up significantly because of ongoing legal fights. Few details are yet known about his goals or the full scope of what his actions will be , other than one of his stated ambitions upon taking the role:
Perhaps the most important new initiative of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, and one that’s closest to my heart is the commitment to hire an independent urban planner to make sure that our district can grow via the addition of affordable workforce housing for our community.
Critics worry the role and its new incumbent could be weaponized for further orchestrated attacks, fines, and intentionally disruptive impediments on Walt Disney World, and that Gilzean himself is essentially receiving compensation to be an ally and be aligned with the Governor. Daniel Langley, special general council for the District, alternatively describes the Administrator as “another tool in the toolbox for enforcement.”
Currently, Gilzean is the Chair of Florida’s Commission on Ethics, a position Governor DeSantis appointed him to. The Commission “renders legally binding advisory opinions interpreting the ethics laws and implements the State’s financial disclosure laws.”Recently, it rejected a complaint from the MAGA Inc. Super PAC backing Donald Trump, which claimed Governor DeSantis was violating campaign finance laws and running a “shadow” campaign for President (via AP News).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilzean also served on the Governor’s Re-Open Florida Task Force alongside various business and government leaders, including Josh D’Amaro (President of Walt Disney World at the time).
Outside of governmental functions, he is President and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League, with a stated goal of ending “generational poverty by empowering Central Floridians to achieve social and economic equality through education, employment and entrepreneurship.”
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 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.
After heated exchanges and dramatic actions taken by Governor DeSantis in an apparent and self-described act of retribution, The Walt Disney Company sued the Governor and his newly handpicked board, citing a “targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.” The plaintiff argues that this chronology of events “threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”
The CFTOD Board of Supervisors voted to file their own countersuit against Disney, essentially seeking to void and de-legitimize agreements Disney made with the previous Reedy Creek Improvement District before its forced dissolution. The new 188-page complaint names the Board itself as plaintiff against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. The district is asking the court to render Disney’s development agreement with the Reedy Creek Improvement District as unenforceable, null, and void. They also ask the same be done of the restrictive covenants, which notably set the benchmark for expiry at 21 years after the death of the last living descendant of King Charles III, living as of the date of the document.
While Disney’s lawsuit is through federal court, the Board’s lawsuit is through Florida’s state courts.
Where does this ongoing dispute go from here? Let us know in the comments.