DeSantis orders investigation into previous leadership of Disney’s special Florida district

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered an investigation into the recent actions and the former leadership of Walt Disney World’s special planning district in the Orlando area.

The move comes after revelations that the state’s planned takeover of the district may have been circumvented.

In a letter to Florida’s chief inspector general released Monday, DeSantis asked for an investigation into the legality of a February declaration approved by the board that oversaw the Reedy Creek Improvement District. That declaration appears to give Walt Disney World direct corporate power to plan and develop the area.

DeSantis further calls for an investigation into the qualifications of that board’s leadership, as well as any potential involvement of Disney employees and agents in executing the new document, and new communications between Disney and the board. 

As the largest landowner in the region, which was recently renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, Disney maintained a de facto control over the previous board.

DeSantis also alleges the February declaration may not be legally binding, citing unnamed legal counsel. A note from DeSantis’ office accompanying Monday’s letter states “all legislative options are back on the table” for responding to the latest development in the clash between the governor’s office and the global entertainment giant.

“These collusive and self-dealing arrangements aim to nullify the recently passed legislation, undercut Florida’s legislative process, and defy the will of Floridians,” DeSantis writes in the letter.

The declaration was approved at a hearing Feb. 8, one day before the Florida House approved a new law giving DeSantis control over appointing new leadership of the district.

“This essentially makes Disney the government,” Ron Peri, one of the new board members appointed to the CFTOD by DeSantis, said at a Feb. 27 meeting, when the meaning of the declaration first appeared to be understood. “This board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintain the roads and maintain basic infrastructure.”

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It previously issued a statement regarding the February declaration that said proper notice was given about the hearing that produced the document, and that the agreement itself was “appropriate.”

The Florida inspector general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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