Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board ratifies whistleblower policy

by | Jun 21, 2023

  • The Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board (CFTOB) approved a new whistleblower policy during its meeting.
  • The policy allows employees to report violations of state, federal, or local laws and acts of mismanagement or waste of public funds.
  • Associates of the Board clarified that the resolution supplements the Florida Whistle-blower’s Act, providing protection to employees in public agencies from retaliatory actions and offering remedies such as reinstatement, compensation, and legal fees.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board (CFTOB) — formerly known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District — approved a new whistleblower policy during its Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday.

According to district leaders, the resolution permits employees of CFTOB to inform and report any state, federal, or local law violations committed by an agent of the district or an independent contractor. The policy also covers information regarding suspected acts of gross mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, or waste of public funds.

“One of the first points of feedback we received shortly after being appointed to this Board is that some of our staff and employees felt like maybe their grievances or concerns are falling on deaf ears with respect to the prior Board,” said Board member Martin Garcia. “We’re adopting a formal whistleblower policy that is new to the district and hopefully that sends a message that the culture here, from the Board’s perspective, we want to hear from you — good, bad, or ugly.”

Special Counsel Daniel Langley further clarified that the policy’s adoption supplements the Florida Whistle-blower’s Act, which protects employees in public agencies from retaliatory actions when they disclose violations of the law. The law prohibits adverse personnel actions against employees who make such disclosures and provides remedies including reinstatement, compensation, and legal fees.

“We want to encourage open and honest government,” continued Garcia. “When we took over these responsibilities information we received is that certain ideas and other issues were falling on deaf ears. We want to adopt a policy that says we don’t have deaf ears. We want you to be heard.”

The policy introduction comes following the Board’s vote in May to file a lawsuit against The Walt Disney Company in state court, which itself comes after Disney sued Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the Oversight Board, and other state officials in federal court.

In remarks during a recent meeting, Garcia contended that after Disney’s decision to sue in federal court, the board had few options at its disposal.

“We have no choice now but to respond,” Garcia said during the board meeting. “We’ll seek justice in our own backyard.”

The lawsuit aims to uphold and enforce the CFTOB’s actions that voided agreements made at the 11th hour by Disney, just before control switched from the Reedy Creek Improvement District to the new CFTOB. The agreements, which CFTOB says were made without proper public notice, granted Disney control over development in the area.

Disney’s lawyers assert that the agreements were legitimately approved during transparent meetings, and the company also alleges that the state is using its authority to unconstitutionally retaliate against Disney for opposing DeSantis’ legislative plans.

The lawsuit features statements from DeSantis and his supporters criticizing Disney for its opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Law, which has been labeled by critics as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. Disney’s attorneys wrote that “Disney voiced its stance on state legislation, and subsequently, the state penalized the company for expressing its opinion.”

While DeSantis condemned Disney as a “woke” corporation, state legislators decided to revamp the Reedy Creek Improvement District, responsible for overseeing government services at Disney World. The lawmakers chose to replace the five Disney-elected members with governor-appointed ones, disrupting a system that allowed Disney to govern its Florida theme parks and resorts autonomously for over 50 years.

Florida officials, and particularly DeSantis, have repeatedly pointed out that the changes “level the playing field” so that Disney is now subject to the same laws and regulations as all other companies in Florida.

Garcia highlighted the new board’s objective of “fostering public interest” by introducing what he described as innovative approaches to Disney’s special district. In prepared remarks emailed to journalists before the board meeting, Garcia wrote:

“In essence, [Disney] is asking a federal court in Tallahassee to wrestle back the hands of time to 1967, while this board is instead charged legislatively with bringing the district into the 21st century with new and better policies and practices.”


  1. Deborah Coffey

    DeSantis will lose big to Disney. He is not presidential material and he will never be POTUS. America has had enough of the Trump-DeSantis thin skinned nonsense and the retribution that follows.

    • Cheryl S.

      So says you! FL is now a RED state and we are tired of the evil & corruption from the left! Thank God for Governor DeSantis is FL!

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