DeSantis-Appointed Board Files Countersuit Against The Walt Disney Company
A board appointed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to oversee Disneyland’s Reedy Creek Improvement District has filed a lawsuit against The Walt Disney Company.
The Disney-DeSantis feud has been going on for more than a year now, and this week’s countersuit is only the latest in a back-and-forth battle that looks likely to continue for months or years as DeSantis uses it to prop up a potential presidential run.
Context: Disney has, since 1967, enjoyed a special self-governing status in Florida’s Reedy Creek Improvement District. In February, DeSantis and the Florida legislature passed a bill that allowed him to appoint the board in charge of the district, essentially stripping the company of those self-governing privileges. Disney then did some legal maneuvering to strip the board of most of its authority before DeSantis’ appointees were placed in charge. Disney has since sued DeSantis, and this week the neutered Reedy Creek board sued back.
Why is this happening now? According to the governor-appointed board members, their decision to sue came after The Walt Disney Company filed its lawsuit against DeSantis and the Reedy Creek board. All five members approved the countersuit.
What is Disney being accused of? The 188-page lawsuit filed on Monday asks the 9th Judicial Circuit in Central Florida to nullify the loophole that Disney used to strip the board of its power and maintain control of the Reedy Creek district, claiming that it’s “riddled with procedural and substantive defects.” The lawsuit takes special exception to an arrangement Disney put in place with the previous board that would have given the company control of Reedy Creek essentially in perpetuity.
What is DeSantis being accused of? Disney is arguing that DeSantis’ and his allies are engaged in “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” against the company that has been “orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.”
What does Disney mean by “targeted campaign”? Last month, as his polling numbers were dropping faster than the logs on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, DeSantis lashed out at Disney, threatening that the state was considering implementing increased oversight of ride safety, boosting assessment valuations of its properties, and adding tolls to the roads leading to Disney’s resorts and theme parks. The governor also publicly suggested that a new state prison might be built on the 40 square miles of land that borders the resort and theme park.
What are they saying? Martin Garcia, chairman of the board for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, said:
We have no choice now but to respond. 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 Walt Disney Company has not yet commented on the board’s filing, although sources are indicating the company was expecting the countersuit.
Pictured at top: Walt Disney World Resort – Credit: wdwinfo.com