DeSantis Board OKs Disney Suit

Company is seeking to block Florida governor's takeover of district
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 1, 2023 2:30 PM CDT
DeSantis Board Approves Countersuing Disney
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, shown April 21,   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Days after Disney sued Florida's governor in federal court for what it described as retaliation for opposing the state's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill, members of Disney World's governing board—made up of Gov. Ron DeSantis appointees—authorized a lawsuit Monday against the entertainment giant. Members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District voted unanimously to sue Disney in state court in the Orlando area, as well as defend itself in federal court in Tallahassee, where the entertainment company filed its lawsuit last Wednesday, the AP reports. The Disney lawsuit against the governor, the board and its five members asks a judge to void the governor's takeover of the theme park district previously controlled by Disney for 55 years.

The board's lawsuit seeks to maintain its oversight of design and construction in the district that governs Disney World's 25,000 acres after the previous Disney-controlled board signed over those powers to the company before the DeSantis-appointed board members held their first meeting earlier this year. "We will seek justice in our own backyard," said Martin Garcia, chair of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. An email seeking comment was sent Monday morning to Disney officials. Disney filed its lawsuit last week after the oversight board appointed by DeSantis voted to void a deal that gave the company authority over design and construction decisions in its sprawling properties near Orlando.

Disney's lawsuit was the latest tug-of-war in a more than year-old feud between Disney and DeSantis that has engulfed the governor in criticism while he lays the groundwork for a presidential bid. The current board members, before and after the vote authorizing a state lawsuit against Disney on Monday, defended their work, claiming they were trying to promote better governance and bring the district into the 21st century. Board member Ron Peri described being mocked in the media and getting hate mail. During the public comment portion of Monday's meeting, a man who has a Disney timeshare told the board members, "You guys are terrible and I think you all should resign."

(More Disney World stories.)

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