Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) Administrator Glen Gilzean announced in a presentation during today’s Board meeting that over $5 million would be budgeted in 2024 for their legal fight with Walt Disney World.
The “Disney induced expenses” come to a total of $5,070,000 in the 2024 fiscal year budget. Broken down, that includes $70,000 for a financial advisor, $250,000 for governance policies, $4,500,000 for litigation, and $250,000 to law firm Carlton Fields. 2023’s “Disney induced budget” was $2,073,099.
Today’s meeting also included several Reedy Creek firefighters speaking out against the District removing their Walt Disney World Annual Pass benefits.
Disney vs. CFTOD
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the 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.
Now-former CEO Bob Chapek initially remained silent and passive on the issue — until massive internal criticisms from Cast Members, the LGBTQ+ community, and controversy over Disney making hefty political contributions to campaigns and individuals allegedly against their own stated human principles came into focus.
After Chapek denounced the law, Governor DeSantis moved forward with various verbal and legal assaults on Disney, including the attempted dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Ultimately, the District was renamed and DeSantis appointed his own Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors.
DeSantis argued he is attacking 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.
After the CFTOD Board attempted to declare Disney’s final agreements with RCID null and void, Disney filed a federal lawsuit against the Board and DeSantis, calling their actions a violation of their constitutional rights.
In the lawsuit, Disney cites “A targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech—now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”
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.
The Board then filed a state lawsuit against Disney and Disney is now countersuing on the state level, arguing that because RCID was never actually dissolved, the CFOTD is essentially the same entity and is going back on their word.
Despite his many statements against Disney, DeSantis recently stated he’s “moved on” from the issue and said Disney should drop their lawsuit.