On Monday, a district board established by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to supervise development around Walt Disney Co.’s Florida theme parks sued the company to overturn “backroom deals” beneficial to the entertainment giant.
Disney and the Republican governor, who is also a prospective presidential candidate, are at odds over the state court case. Last week, Disney filed a federal district court lawsuit against DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board.
Last year, Disney accused DeSantis and his supporters of inappropriately utilizing state government to punish the company for opposing a state plan limiting classroom discussion of sexuality and gender identity with younger children. DeSantis has openly slammed “woke Disney” as he prepares to run for president.
“Since Disney sued us, we now have no choice but to respond,” board Chair Martin Garcia said at a meeting on Monday. According to the case filed in Orange County, Florida, former board members rubber-stamped a one-sided agreement with Disney.
Disney rushed the deal so that the new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board could take control of municipal services and development on Walt Disney World’s 25,000 acres.
“In an effort to stymie Florida’s elected representatives, Disney covertly cobbled together a series of eleventh-hour deals with its soon-to-be-replaced puppet government,” according to the lawsuit. “Disney hoped to tie the hands of the new, independent Board and preserve its own government in the District for at least 30 years.”
According to the lawsuit, Disney and its “puppet board” utilized a developers agreement and restrictive covenants to “perpetuate its stranglehold” on the region.
The board, appointed by DeSantis, ruled that the agreements were “riddled with procedural and substantive defects” and so unenforceable. According to the lawsuit, the previous board failed to give enough public notice or follow protocols.
According to Disney’s allegation, it deployed mechanisms to preserve its future expansion objectives. The company said, the oversight board, then known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, followed public notice and meeting laws.
Politicians in central Florida, where Disney World attracts millions of visitors, ended Disney’s virtual autonomy.
Disney’s case also contested the DeSantis-appointed board’s allegation that its predecessors’ development contracts were “void.” These transactions established the framework for billions of dollars of Walt Disney World resort investment.
“The government action was patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional,” said Disney in its appeal.
Martin said that the oversight board is promoting the public good in accordance with Florida state legislation.
“The district will seek justice in state court here in central Florida, where it and Disney both reside and do business,” Martin said.
According to Mary-Rose Papandrea, a law professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, Disney sued DeSantis and the board in both state and federal court, which might be heard simultaneously.
According to Papandrea, the first case may be resolved and used in the other court. However, because case claims differ, this is difficult.
“It is wrong for one corporation to basically corrupt the local government and run it as its own fiefdom, exempt from laws, and have all kinds of benefits that nobody else has,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis has talked extensively about his conflict with Disney before running for president. His political risks have escalated as a result of the conflict.
Former President Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner, tweeted that DeSantis “is being destroyed by Disney” and that Disney will reduce its investments in Florida.
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