Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board Passes Whistleblower Policy

Lisa Stump

Reedy Creek Improvement District sign

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board Passes Whistleblower Policy

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board held a meeting today where they passed a new resolution establishing a whistleblower policy within the district.

rcid reedy creek improvement district 3 scaled 1

CFTOD Passes New Whistleblower Policy

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors passed a new resolution to establish a whistleblower policy in today’s board meeting.

The board claimed staff within the area felt their grievances or concerns were “falling on deaf ears,” and as a board they wanted to ensure their policy was to be “open, honest, transparent and receptive.” The full text for adopting the resolution is below. You can access the full document here.

In consultation with the District’s labor attorney, it was determined that the District does not currently have a specific whistleblower policy within its personnel policies. Thereafter, the Acting General Counsel requested the labor attorney to prepare a whistleblower policy for the Board of Supervisor’s consideration.

This proposed Policy is intended to provide guidance to and assist employees and persons that have knowledge of unlawful activity, misfeasance, or malfeasance by the District, its employees, or its independent contractors, in reporting such knowledge so that the District can address and correct inappropriate conduct and actions. In order to encourage reporting of such information without fear of reprisal, this Policy prohibits adverse action against an employee or person who has disclosed information to an appropriate official under this Policy.

This Policy does not replace the State of Florida’s Whistleblower’s Act (“State Act”) and persons who wish to disclose information pursuant to the State Act may do so in addition to, or in lieu of, the procedures in this Policy. The Policy is effective immediately for non-unionized employees. The Policy has a delayed effective date of August 1st for employees who are members of a collective bargaining unit in order to give the unionized employees time to comment on the same.

If any comments justify further revisions to this Policy, an amendment to this Policy can be processed at a later date. The District Administrator is given flexibility to further extend the delayed effective date for up to 90 additional days.

The resolution states that the policy goes into effect immediately for non-unionized employees, and has a delay until August 1 in order to allow unions to comment on the policy before it becomes active for those workforce members. The District Administrator, Glen Gilzean, is also given legal permission to delay the effective date by an additional 90 days.

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom

Whistleblower Responsibilities & Protections

The policy itself states the following as a responsibility of employees, who will be covered under the whistleblower policy:

It is the responsibility of all employees to report good faith concerns of the following conduct:

(1) Any violation or suspected violation of any federal, state or local law, rule or regulation committed by an employee or agent of the District or an independent contractor which creates and presents a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety or welfare; or

(2) Any act or suspected act of gross mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, gross waste of public funds, or gross neglect of duty committed by an employee or agent of the District or an independent contractor.

The policy goes on to include that the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District will prohibit any form of retaliation against whistleblowers including “dismissal, discipline, or other adverse personnel action,” against anyone who reports concerns in “good faith.” This extends to circumstances where the accusations turn out to be unsubstantiated.

The CFTOD Board of Supervisors is made up of the following members appointed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis:

The District Administrator is Glen Gilzean, Jr.

The board will also be holding a closed door meeting on Friday of this week to discuss union negotiations regarding the Reedy Creek Fire Department.

reedy creek fire department

Reedy Creek Fire Department

Reedy Creek Fire District first responders expressed alarm last spring in the wake of Governor Ron DeSantis’ plan to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, stating their lifetime Disney passes and lifelong health insurance were at risk as a result. Union leadership has been in regular dialogue with Gov. DeSantis since, expressing they’re reassured by the governor’s track record with first responders.

Tim Stromsnes, communications director of the Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters Local 2117 union, told the Orlando Sentinel earlier this year in the face of the CFTOD takeover “Anything has got to be better than what we currently have. We really hope that this new board will bring the morale up for Reedy Creek [and] will make us an elite emergency services department again. We’ve got our faith in the governor that we’re going to be around and that it’s going to be a better place to work.”

The union has had a rather rocky relationship with Disney, who appointed all five seats on the district’s Board of Supervisors. Their focus is largely on the theme park business and union members allege the Board cares little for actual employees of the District, which includes first responders like firefighters. Fire trucks and rescue units have broken down on multiple occasions, forcing responders to arrive on the scene in SUVs. Staffing has also remained inadequately low. Disney and Reedy Creek have both aggressively denied these claims.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 9B, which enacted the state takeover of the district, at the Reedy Creek Fire Department in February.

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