DeSantis Appointed Board Votes to Countersue Disney

The board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District met on Monday morning to discuss how to respond to the lawsuit that Disney has brought against Governor DeSantis and other Florida leaders, including the board. Disney sued the Governor and the board for what it calls “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” against Disney that was “orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.”

In response to the lawsuit, the board voted to sue Disney. Chairman of the board Martin Garcia said the lawsuit will be filed in Central Florida. The lawsuit will be to “uphold and enforce the board’s April 26, 2023 legislative findings relating to the February 8, 2023 development agreement and declaration of restrictive covenants” Garcia said. “We have no choice now but to respond,” Garcia said. “We will seek justice in state court here in central Florida where both it and Disney do business. Yes, we’ll seek justice in our own backyard.”

The board also voted to defend itself from the lawsuit that was filed in a Federal Court in Tallahassee last week by Disney. Garcia said that the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District lawsuit would instead be filed in a Central Florida State Court. Garcia framed the fight in the following manner saying, “In essence, Disney is asking a federal court in Tallahassee to wrestle back the hands of time to 1967, while this board is instead charged legislatively with bringing the district into the 21st century with new and better policies and practices.”

This new lawsuit is the most recent escalation in the fight between Disney and Governor DeSantis. This initially began when ex-Disney CEO Bob Chapek came out against a “Don’t Say Gay” bill last year. This led to a dispute between Disney and DeSantis. The Florida Legislature, under the direction of DeSantis, eventually would pass a bill to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District. This would eventually lead to the creation of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, with a board of directors that were picked by Governor DeSantis.

As the Governor and Florida Legislature were focused on replacing the Reedy Creek Improvement District, Disney and Reedy Creek were continuing to work on the future for the district and put in place a Development Agreement. This was done publicly but wasn’t discovered by the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board until weeks later. This led to another escalation with the Governor threatening to raise hotel taxes, add tolls on roads, and develop unused areas in the district with another amusement park or prison. Following those threats, the board later voted to nullify the Development Agreement, which was followed by the Disney lawsuit.

At this point, other leaders in the Republican Party are coming out and calling on DeSantis to deescalate and resolve the situation. There have been no indications, however, that the Governor is heeding these calls. There is no indication that this feud will be ending anytime soon. Daps Magic will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they become available.