Ron DeSantis appoints former Jeopardy champion as new board member for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District

Jun 01, 2023 in "Reedy Creek Improvement District"

Posted: Thursday June 1, 2023 4:!5pm ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has today announced the appointment of Charbel Barakat to the board of his hand-picked Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.


Charbel Barakat, a former Jeopardy champion, replaces Michael Sasso who resigned last week from his board position after less than four months in the job.

Barakat, of Tampa, is the Regional General Counsel for D.R. Horton, Inc. He currently serves as a Commissioner for the Second District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission and serves on the Florida Development Finance Corporation. Barakat is Vice President of the Federalist Society for the Tampa Bay Chapter and Chairman of the Volume Builders Council for the Florida Home Builders Association. Barakat earned his bachelor’s degree in international studies from Johns Hopkins University and his juris doctor from New York University School of Law.

The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Barakat will join the board that was appointed by DeSantis to replace the Reedy Creek Improvement District at the end of February 2023. Other members of the five-person board are Bridget Ziegler, one of the authors of Florida's controversial Parental Bill of Rights law, Ron Peri, a former senior pastor of Evangel Baptist Church and now CEO of The Gathering, and lawyers Martin Garcia and Brian Aungst.

The entire board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District is being sued by the Walt Disney Company as part of the lawsuit against the district and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

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Stripes15 hours ago

Yeah, just go to Civil Case Records search and look up “Walt Disney Parks and Resorts” under Business Name. The case is on the second or third page of cases.

Isamar15 hours ago

The response IMO just oozes belligerent big-money lawyers who are used to bullying less powerful litigants into submission, which obviously isn’t going to happen here. Unfortunately, some of the arrogance may come from knowing that Desantis has appointed so many of Florida’s judges, especially appellate judges. (And of course the board members and their lawyers are very well-connected.) Some of the Disney requests they cited are interesting - I’ll grab some screenshots when I have some time later. BTW, someone has probably already posted this but for anyone catching up: the case docket, with the publicly-filed documents, is on the Orange County Clerk’s website. I’ll try to post a link to the docket but it will probably only take you to their search page, because they have a particularly annoying recaptcha. Link to the docket? (but probably the search page):

mikejs7816 hours ago

It's been reported that the price was the same that is offered to all third party businesses operating within WDW. So for example, Sheraton had access to the same deal.

JoeCamel17 hours ago

You throw up a lot of flack to get your target through. Let's see if Disney gets what they really want when this all shakes out. Like charging multiple crimes in a criminal case you expect some to get tossed

GrumpyFan17 hours ago

For political appointees doing the governor's dirty work, they sure do think awfully highly of their positions. Do they really think that because the governor appointed them as his minions to rule over Disney that they are above the law? This just gets funnier with each salvo. Also, sounds like they've got something to hide and makes me really curious what will be exposed! LOL

Stripes17 hours ago

monothingie17 hours ago

I would assume so. I would also assume that the price RCID paid was not unique to RCID and was inline with similar offerings sold to other entities.

lazyboy97o17 hours ago

It is publicly available to all operating participants.

monothingie18 hours ago

Which should have been at publicly available pricing.

peter1143518 hours ago

That would open up some legal issues. Public employees accepting gifts….

yensid196718 hours ago

OK that makes sense! BUT you would think Disney would still offer it to them since they were grandfathered in and skip the district! Firefighters get an Annual Pass for keeping Disney World a safe place free of fire! but I guess the district would have a problem with that too!?

lazyboy97o18 hours ago

It’s a benefit sold by Disney that the District and other operating participants purchase.

yensid196718 hours ago

OK, I think I know where I misspoke...I was asking how the CFOD can take away Firefighters Annual Pass benefits. I understand that the firefighters work for the District, but how can the district take away a benefit that is offered by Disney? I might be missing something, but its OK...I'm old! LOL

MisterPenguin1 day ago