DeSantis-Appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Accuses Disney of Bribing Former Reedy Creek Improvement District With Gifts

Brit Tuttle

Front of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom

DeSantis-Appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Accuses Disney of Bribing Former Reedy Creek Improvement District With Gifts

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) has shared a new 80-page report that accuses Disney of giving the former Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) gifts and benefits that were “akin to bribes of public officials,” according to Reuters.

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Accuses Disney of Bribing Reedy Creek With Gifts

Reedy Creek Improvement District sign

“For years, the company treated district employees like Disney employees by, for instance, providing complimentary annual passes and steep discounts — benefits and perks that were akin to bribes,” says the report. Preparation of the document was required by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida legislature within one year of the board’s creation. The report was created by a group of experts.

Not surprisingly then, the district’s employees believed that it was in their job to prioritize the interests of Disney.

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Report

The former Reedy Creek Improvement District was established by Florida state legislature in 1967 as a special purpose district to support the development of Walt Disney World, per Yahoo. A special taxation district is defined as a unit of local government created for a specific purpose; RCID specifically was created to provide municipal services, with jurisdiction to operate in a limited area.

The report claims that the former board enjoyed “exceptionally broad authority to regulate itself, at Disney’s total discretion,” and that the board was “inverted to serve Disney.” The company previously held voting control of the board of supervisors.

Despite the claims made in the report, CFTOD is not “accusing the previous board of criminal activity in the report,” per Reuters. However, the report does say that RCID “was in dire need of reform, and thus the legislature was amply warranted” in creating CFTOD to oversee municipal services in the area.

A Disney spokesperson shared a statement with Yahoo, saying that the document is an “exercise in revisionist history.”

This report is neither objective nor credible, and only seeks to advance [the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s] interests in its wasteful litigation that could derail investment within the district. Further, it does not change the fact that the CFTOD board was appointed by the governor to punish Disney for exercising its Constitutional right to free speech.

Statement from Disney spokesperson on new CFTOD report

The CFTOD Board will meet tomorrow, Wednesday, December 6, to vote on whether or not to accept the report.

Disney vs. DeSantis & CFTOD

bob iger ron desantis

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. Former and future CEO Bob Iger also condemned the law.

After Chapek finally 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.

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Logo

DeSantis is attacking what he calls “woke politics” allegedly invading the state — frequently stating his intention to put the people of Florida first through his actions and via the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District:

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 Central Florida Tourism Oversight District 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. The company is now countersuing on the state level, arguing that because RCID was never actually dissolved, the CFOTD is essentially the same entity and is returning to its word.

DeSantis said that the state of Florida had “won the battle” against Disney in a mid-November interview.

Most recently, a new bill is being introduced that seeks to repeal the CFTOD and restore the RCID. You can read the full text of the bill here. Three Republican lawmakers walked out of the legislative meeting regarding the bill last week.

Current Disney CEO Bob Iger recently shared in an interview that he had offered to speak to DeSantis through intermediaries, but “he did not take me up on that offer.”

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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.