- The Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board (CFTOD) alleged it uncovered a scheme by former Reedy Creek Improvement District board members funneling tax dollars to Disney in exchange for theme park access.
- The former Disney-controlled RFID board members are accused of misusing millions in tax funds to buy Disney park tickets, discounts at hotels, and other personal perks.
- The matter has been referred to the Florida Inspector General for a more complete investigation into the situation.
The Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board (CFTOD) says it has uncovered a scheme in which former Reedy Creek Improvement District board members are accused of using millions of tax dollars to purchase theme park tickets, hotels and other perks enjoyed by the board. In a press release, CFTOD says it has referred the matter to the Florida Inspector General for further investigation.
According to the release, CFTOD alleges that the formerly Disney-controlled board, in 2022 alone, funneled over $2.5 million back to Disney for season passes, hotels, cruises, food, and other perks for board members and employees. Those totals include $492,382.96 for tickets during the first quarter of the year, and various other discounts on merchandise, food, beverages, and water park tickets.
CFTOD called the payments “unethical benefits and perks,” and said the discovery “raises significant questions regarding self-dealing as the board members were only permitted a maximum of $100 per month in compensation per the Reedy Creek Improvement District Act.”
A message seeking comment on the allegations against the Disney district’s former board members was not immediately answered by John McGowan, the Disney attorney who provided legal counsel to Reedy Creek board members earlier this year.
The revelations come months after CFTOD alleged that the former Reedy Creek board attempted to undermine the new board’s authority. The actions have ignited a nasty legal feud between Governor Ron DeSantis, who handpicked the new CFTOD board, and the entertainment giant, which controlled the previous board.
Upon uncovering the Disney park perks payments, the CFTOD Administrator, Glen Gilzean, said the new board set in motion plans to eliminate the benefits and perks. Any CFTOD employees needing access to Disney premises for official duties will still have access, but all taxpayer-funded perks have been terminated.
The referral to the Inspector General marks yet another step in the bitter legal battle between the Florida governor and Disney. Disney has filed lawsuits at both the state and federal levels, attempting to regain control of the special tax district. Last week, Disney sued the DeSantis-appointed board for damages.
The battle with Disney also has political consequences for DeSantis. Critics, including former President Donald Trump, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, have taken shots at him over the situation. While DeSantis still trails Trump in a distant second place in most polls, MSNBC reported Monday morning that a “legendary Iowa pollster” has the GOP nominating contest between Trump and DeSantis for the 2024 Republican presidential primary “closer than it may at first seem.”
View the full invoice for Reedy Creek’s park perks below:Reedy Creek Park Perks Invoice