Glenton “Glen” Gilzean, the administrator for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District that governs most of the land where Walt Disney World Resort is found, is facing ethical questions in the state of Florida. The questions come up over his current role as both the administrator for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and also his role as the Chair for Florida’s Commission on Ethics.
The problem lies in a Florida law that specifies that “No member may hold any public employment.” This is in reference to membership on the ethics board. Gilzean was hired as the administrator of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District earlier this year and receives a salary of $400,000 a year. This appears to be a direct violation of the Florida law.
The issue was first discovered by the Florida Bulldog. The Florida Bulldog reached out to ethics commissioners who apparently did not realize about the rule restricting public employment. When Commissioner Jim Waldman was told about the rule, he responded that Gilzean’s public employment “does appear to be a conflict under the rules of the commission.”
At this point, Gilzean has not responded to requests for comment from the Florida Bulldog or the Orlando Sentinal.
Gilzean was hired by the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District as there continues to be a feud between The Walt Disney Company and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis about the district. Formerly the Reedy Creek Improvement District, Governor DeSantis began a crusade to have it dissolved after Disney came out against a so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law in 2022. Since then, Governor DeSantis has attacked what he calls “woke Disney” and accused it of sexulizing children and has said multiple times that “there is a new sheriff in town” regarding the situation. More recently Governor DeSantis has reframed the argument as one about the self government of Disney in the former Reedy Creek Improvement District. This comes after Disney sued Governor DeSantis and other Florida leaders.
The apparent conflict of interests of Gilzean just adds more questions to the already controversial Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. It is unknown if Gilzean will resign as the administrator or from the ethics commission at this point.
The Orlando Sentinal asked Michael Barfield, director of public access initiatives for the Florida Center for Government Accountability, about the apparent conflict of interests by Gilzean’s dual roles. Barfield said that this does seem to be a violation of Florida law.
“The legal requirements are there for a reason, and that is for transparency and to prevent conflicts of interest,” he said. “You can’t be sitting in a watchdog capacity in the position of the ethics commission and at the same time be … subject to the authority of the ethics commission. That is an inherent conflict of interest.”
Gilzean was appointed to the Commission on Ethics by Governor DeSantis in 2019. His current term is set to expire in June 2024. He was elected by fellow ethics commission members to the role of Chair in January 2023. The Comission on Ethics website says the following:
The Florida Commission on Ethics is a nine-member Commission with a staff of approximately twenty-five employees located in Tallahassee, that serves as the guardian of the standards of conduct for officers and employees of Florida and its political subdivisions and functions as an independent commission responsible for investigating and issuing public reports on complaints of breach of the public trust by public officers and employees. The Commission also renders legally binding advisory opinions interpreting the ethics laws and implements the State’s financial disclosure laws.
The Commission members serve two-year terms. Five members are appointed by the Governor, with no more than three from the same political party. One member appointed by the Governor must be a former city or county official. Two members are appointed by the President of the Senate and two members by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Neither the President nor the Speaker may appoint more than one member from the same political party. No member may hold any public employment or serve more than two full terms in succession; however, a member may continue to serve after his or her term expires, until a replacement is appointed.
The Commission’s Functions and Responsibilities
The Commission, by majority vote, interprets and applies Florida’s ethics laws by acting on complaints, recommending penalties, and issuing legal opinions. Also, the Commission hires the Executive Director, recommends changes in the ethics laws to the Legislature, and adopts rules of procedure and an operating budget.
The Commission’s Staff
- The Legal Section drafts legal opinions, orders, rules, and proposed legislation for consideration by the Commission, represents the Commission in litigation, and responds to inquiries about the ethics laws.
- The Public Information Section provides information regarding Commission practices and procedures to the press, the public, and other states, and responds to inquiries about the Commission and the ethics laws.
- The Investigative Section investigates complaints of violations of the ethics laws and compiles narrative investigative reports.
- The Financial Disclosure Section handles and supervises the disclosure notification process, receives and maintains disclosure forms, enforces the timely filing of disclosure forms, and responds to inquiries about financial disclosure laws.
- The Administrative Section provides administrative and clerical support to the Commission and staff.
Glen Gilzean replaced John Classe who was the administrator of the Reedy Creek Improvement District for nearly a decade. The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District is currently a part of a lawsuit brought about by Disney against Governor DeSantis and other leaders in the state. The outcome of this lawsuit could determine the future of the district. The new district board and leaders are currently working on restructuring the district and changing the tax structure, much of this comes from suggestions by Gilzean.
Daps Magic will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they become availble.