Florida accuses Disney of acting like Scrooge McDuck in a plot to retain power

By Emily Godin, US Senior Political Correspondent

20:04 Apr 19, 2023 Updated 20:55 Apr 19, 2023

  • DeSantis’ newly appointed board of directors continues the state’s war against Disney
  • and threatened to build affordable housing around Reedy Creek
  • Attorney slams entertainment giant’s legal maneuvering as ‘caper worthy of Scrooge McDuck for trying to evade Florida law’

Ron DeSantis’ new board of directors on Wednesday warned Disney that it could surround the theme park with affordable housing and demand back taxes as the state continues to seek revenge on the entertainment giant for attempting to subvert the governor’s power.

said attorney David Thompson, who was hired by the Central Florida Tourism Control Board to look into the legality of Disney’s use of an obscure clause tied to King Charles III to beat DeSantis.

Wednesday’s hearing was another step the state is taking in its war against the house that Mickey Mouse built.

Florida state attorney says Disney contracted ‘grave worthy Scrooge McDuck’ to try to evade Florida law
Martin Garcia, chairman of the board appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis to oversee Disney

DeSantis led the war, criticizing the “wake-up” culture he claims Disney is pushing, and vowing control of the roughly 25,000 acres the park occupies.

He also warned of retaliation, including the threat to build a prison on land adjacent to state-owned Disney World.

The board’s chairman, Martin Garcia, echoed the governor’s threats Wednesday by warning Disney that it is looking at new options for the area, including affordable housing development around the park.

“It’s really a shame what Disney tried to do,” Garcia said. “Nothing is off the table at this point.”

He warned that the five-member board of directors may vote to monetize assets within the region to pay off outstanding debts ahead of schedule. That debt, estimated at $686 million, prevented DeSantis from wiping out the district.

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The law that created the county forbids the state to dissolve it without paying its debts.

The board also said it might consider acquiring some Disney-owned land under eminent ownership and the COVID-19 vaccine ban and mask mandates that Disney put in place during the pandemic.

DeSantis’ board also alleged that Disney wrote the new ‘royal clause’ bylaw and got the old Reedy Creek board to pass it, bypassing their authority.

During the board meeting, attorneys for the board showed emails from Walt Disney World Resort chief counsel John McGowan, claiming he was the one responsible for drafting the papers, but wanted someone else’s name in the decision because of “optics.”

“My name is currently at the top of the document as editor,” McGowan wrote. “And I’m comfortable with my name on it, but from an optics standpoint, it’s not ideal and it would be better to have a non-Disney employee be in charge of the wording.”

Subsequent emails show that his name was removed from the final draft.

In addition, DeSantis and his allies also argue that Disney did not pay enough taxes because it undervalued its properties in order to get a lower price.

The board threatens to chase after back taxes, but it’s unclear how much money they’re talking about. The board also warned that it might try to recoup the legal fees it would have to spend to fight Disney Plays.

The Central Florida Tourism Control District Board of Directors will meet again on April 26

The fights have just begun. DeSantis warned Monday that there’s more to his end.

Garcia said Wednesday that the board has more policies planned for the future.

He warned that “every meeting or every other meeting” some new policy will be discussed.

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Disney and DeSantis clashed when the company spoke out against the governor’s alleged “Don’t Call Gay” law — a state law that bans classroom discussion of sexual orientation and sex identification.

As part of that war, DeSantis and the Republican-controlled Florida legislature It ended the home rule franchises that Disney World had had since 1967.

New DeSantis appointed The Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board to replace the old Reedy Creek Board which governs the special taxation district in which the Disney theme parks reside.

Before the newly appointed board of directors took over, Disney officials and the old board struck a deal allowing the company to bypass the new board’s control, using an obscure legal clause that checked King Charles III’s name.

In addition, Disney has the 30-year approvals for zoning, infrastructure and air rights that the company might need if it chooses to expand its theme park — meaning it can do so without approval from DeSantis’ hand-selected board.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced that the state legislature would nullify Disney’s legal maneuvers that stripped its new board of directors of its power.

DeSantis and his allies are working a two-punch punch to counter the legal move.

At a Wednesday meeting of the Central Tourism Board, attorney David Thompson explained why he considered Disney’s move illegal, arguing that Disney did not provide proper notice of the proposed changes before the old board approved them.

Disney points to public notices that it published in local newspapers—as required by law—but Thompson argued that the company missed another condition: They did not mail notices to other property owners in the Reedy Creek Special Tax District.

He also argues that, under Florida law, such an agreement can only be approved if the county has established procedures governing the adoption of such an agreement. He says this did not happen.

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Under Florida law, he noted, the government “cannot bestow its own powers on private parties.”

The board members eventually decided to ask the employees for a resolution they would consider at their meeting on April 26 that would invalidate the agreements that preserved Disney’s authority prior to the new board’s takeover.

Disney is expected to hit back, taking the next shot in what is expected to become a drawn-out, drawn-out legal war.

DeSantis, who is expected to announce the 2024 presidential run later this summer, brushed it off.

“If Disney objects to that, then so be it, we’ll do what’s right,” Wednesday said during his appearance in South Carolina.

We’ll make sure we keep them in their pen one way or another. do not worry about that.

On his end, DeSantis announced Monday that the state legislature, which his party controls, would nullify Disney’s legal maneuver.

They thought they could create some kind of development agreement that would make everything we did null and void and put them under control forever for that. Well, that won’t work. This won’t fly,” he said.

He said legislation was in the works to annul this agreement.

“One of the Florida statutes gives the legislature the power to void development agreements in this specific type of instance,” he said during the news conference.

And so I worked with both House and Senate leaders. There’s a bill coming up in the Florida legislature that would make sure that agreements that Disney is allegedly entering into and prove the will of the people are nullified.

“We will not have a single corporation operating as its own government,” he declared.

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