Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Looking to Bypass Disney Lawsuit with Early Judgement

Brit Tuttle

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Looking to Bypass Disney Lawsuit with Early Judgement

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board has filed a new motion for summary judgement in its state lawsuit against Walt Disney World, hoping to gain a pre-trial win, according to Orlando Business Journal.

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Files Motion for Summary Judgement Against Disney

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Files Motion for Summary Judgement in Disney Lawsuit

Disney originally filed a federal lawsuit against the Board and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in late April for “declatory and injunctive relief.” The CFTOD Board filed their state countersuit on May 1, which is the suit in question for this motion of summary judgement.

In the lawsuit, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District is seeking a ruling that affirms that development agreements between Disney and the former Reedy Creek Improvement District are “null and void.” If they succeed, this would be yet another win for the Board, which saw its last win in late July when Judge Margaret Schreiber ruled not to approve Disney’s motion to dismiss the suit after determining that the lawsuit was “not moot.”

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District is seeking summary judgement on five of the nine counts in their original complaint, which are:

  • Count 1 – Failure to Provide Notice of Public Hearing, which questions whether Disney appropriately provided enough notice of their development agreement to all property owners in the district.
  • Count 2 – Ultra Vires Act in Violation of Florida Statute 163.3223, which alleges that the Reedy Creek Improvement District acted “beyond the scope of power allowed” when it entered into the development agreement.
  • Count 3 – District Lacked Authority and Jurisdiction to Enter into Development Agreement, which alleges that RCID lacked the authority and jurisdiction to enter into said agreements without the involvement and notice of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, which are both located in the district.
  • Count 4 – Violation of Article VII, Section 12 of the Florida Constitution, which alleges that the former district utilizing bonds to fund projects related to the development agreement without permission from the public, if said projects last longer than a year, is against the Florida Constitution.
  • Count 6 – Unlawful Delegation of Governmental Authority to Private Entity, which alleges that RCID contracted away its discretionary legislative power, which is against Florida law.
WDW MK Cinderella Castle stock 2

The motion concludes with a statement once again claiming that Disney utilized RCID to govern itself, and that since the former district failed to comply with Florida laws and regulations, the development agreements are null and void.

That Disney, a private entity, effectively governed itself through RCID for decades does not change the fact that RCID was a local government. As such, RCID was required to comply with Florida constitutional, statutory, and common law in exercising its governmental functions.

The undisputed facts show that RCID failed to [do] so in several key respects that render the Agreements void and unenforceable as a matter of law.

The Disney-DeSantis Feud

This is the latest installment in the overall, long-running feud between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who hand-picked members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board when the Reedy Creek Improvement District was dissolved.

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, the LGBTQ+ community, 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.

florida state capitol
Image Source: Orlando Weekly

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 dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District and eventual transfer of power directly under his control. DeSantis argues he is attacking an incredibly vague perception of something he calls “woke politics,” allegedly invading the state — frequently stating his intention to put the people of Florida first through these actions and the newly-formed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board:

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.

Every member of this governing body has been a handpicked ally of the Governor thus far, including a Christian nationalist and lawyer who donated $50,000 to the DeSantis gubernatorial campaign, among others. In May, an administrator for the district (Glen Gilzean) was also appointed, with a significantly increased $400,000 salary directly related to ongoing DeSantis-led legal fights regarding Disney and several other issues around the state. The legal expenditures made by the Governor are being funded by Florida taxpayers.

Ron DeSantis Nov 22

DeSantis has previously argued that he is attacking a vague perception of something he calls “woke politics,” allegedly invading the state — frequently stating his intention to put the people of Florida first through these actions and the newly-formed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board:

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.

Just yesterday, DeSantis said in an interview with CNBC that he has “moved on” from his battles with The Walt Disney Company, and wants the whole issue to be dropped.

In other recent developments for the board, John Classe formally ended all work for the district, and the chairman of the board said in a letter to the editor at Orlando Sentinel that Disney “still holds too much power.”

What do you think of this latest development in the lawsuit between the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and Disney? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

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Author

  • Brit Tuttle

    Brit didn't grow up going to the Disney Parks, but had basically the next best thing: the Phantom Manor ride operations simulator flash game and the Disney Sing-Along Songs Beach Party at Walt Disney World VHS. You can email them at brittani@wdwnt.com.