DeSantis-backed board moves closer to nixing Disney pact

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The board appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to oversee Walt Disney Co.’s central Florida theme parks on Wednesday moved closer to invalidating an agreement that gave the entertainment giant authority over its Florida properties.

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors, during a meeting in Lake Buena Vista, also announced a series of proposals that further the clash between the DeSantis administration and the California-based entertainment giant.

The board on Wednesday asked lawyers to prepare a move that would invalidate the agreement between the Central Florida board that had been controlled by Disney and the company. That agreement, quietly approved in February, gave Disney authority over its theme parks despite a new law that formed a new board controlled by the governor.

The DeSantis administration, however, learned about the agreement in March and then scrambled to respond.

David Thompson, the managing partner from Cooper & Kirk, a Washington, D.C. law firm hired by the newly-installed board, said Disney’s agreements giving it developmental power were not following state law, quoting that they were “illegal, and they will not stand.” Thompson then compared Disney to Scrooge McDuck.

Thompson and Alan Lawson, former Supreme Court Justice, who was also hired by the board, said the district was in violation of the Florida constitution because it gave authority to a private company, and also did not establish procedures before accepting a new developmental agreement at a Feb. 8 meeting.

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The fight against Disney and DeSantis began nearly a year ago after Disney opposed the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed as the “Don’t Say Gay,” that prohibits teachers from leading classroom discussions on gender identity and sexual identity in kindergarten through third grade.

DeSantis, who signed the bill into law in March, criticized Disney as a “woke” corporation and pushed the GOP-controlled Legislature to strip the company of much of its authority over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which allowed Disney to operate its own local government.

The board will meet again on April 26, where staff has been asked to make a resolution voiding the agreements.

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