DeSantis' CFTOD is cutting more than $3 million from road maintenance at Walt Disney World to pay for its legal fights

Sep 13, 2023 in "Reedy Creek Improvement District"

Posted: Wednesday September 13, 2023 5:0pm ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

Florida Governor Ron DeSanatis' Central Florida Tourism Oversight District plans to cut more than $3 million from its road maintenance at Walt Disney World in a proposed budget for financial year 2024.

The proposed budget sees spending on roadway repair and maintenance fall from $16,610,892 in 2023, to $13,456,790 in 2024, a decrease of $3,154,102. In a note on the budget, CFTOD says the major variance is due to "less paving rehab."

During a late-August Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board meeting, administrator Glen Gilzean reported spending plans for the district's legal battle with Walt Disney World.

According to Gilzean, CFTOD has spent almost $2 million so far, with an additional budget of $4.5 million allocated for the financial year 2024.

The CFTOD board sued Disney in a Florida state court in May 2023, following Disney's federal lawsuit against CFTOD board members and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Disney claims in its lawsuit filed in a federal court that there has been "A targeted campaign of government retaliation-orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney's protected speech now threatens Disney's business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights."

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"El Gran Magnifico"5 hours ago

It was worth it to the lawyers. They never lose.

eddie10416 hours ago

I think this quote summarizes this whole debacle very well in simple terms. No matter the outcome in the various lawsuits it wasn’t worth it in the end in my opinion to either party involved.

MisterPenguin16 hours ago Disney and DeSantis Reach Agreement, Ending Protracted Fight Brooks Barnes = June 12, 2024, 8:37 p.m. ET The deal locks in a 15-year expansion plan for Disney World and clears a path for Disney to restart political donations in Florida. Disney and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida have finally ended their feud, clearing the way for $17 billion in planned development at Walt Disney World near Orlando. On Wednesday night, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District — an entity that Mr. DeSantis took over in 2022, ending 55 years of Disney control and sparking multiple lawsuits — gave the company a big part of what it wanted all along: a locked-in, long-term plan for expanding Disney World. At least for the next 15 years, the length of the new agreement, Disney can develop the resort without worrying about interference by Florida politicians. Put bluntly, state leaders can no longer use growth at the 25,000-acre resort as a political weapon, as Mr. DeSantis did two years ago after Disney said it would fight to repeal a state education law that opponents called anti-gay. Jeff Vahle, the president of Disney World, said in a statement that the agreement would support “the growth of this global destination, fueling the Florida economy.” It gives Disney the ability to build a fifth theme park, add three small parks, expand retail and office space and build 14,000 hotel rooms, for a resort total of nearly 54,000. Disney has earmarked $17 billion to expand the complex over the next decade, growth it has said will create an estimated 13,000 jobs. The district noted that, under the agreement, Disney is obligated to spend at least $8 billion. The company also must expand an affordable housing initiative and carry out a “buy local initiative,” with at least 50 percent of its total spending in expanding Disney World going to Florida businesses. Charbel Barakat, vice chairman of the district’s board, called the agreement “a monumental step.” Brian Aungst Jr., another board member, said, “Walt Disney World is inextricably intertwined in the fabric of the state of Florida, and the success of Walt Disney World is the success of Central Florida and vice versa.” After the district’s five board members unanimously approved the expansion plan, Disney said it would halt all litigation against Mr. DeSantis and the district. Disney had been battling Mr. DeSantis and the district’s board in federal court. In a lawsuit filed last year, Disney said the governor and his allies had violated the First Amendment by taking over the district in retaliation for Disney’s denunciation of the education law. In January, a federal judge threw out Disney’s complaint, ruling that it didn’t matter whether their actions were retaliatory. Disney had vowed to appeal. Separate but related litigation in state court was settled in March. The expansion agreement clears a path for Disney to resume giving political donations in Florida; the company halted campaign giving when Mr. DeSantis seized control of the tourism oversight board. Disney recently dipped a toe back into the practice by giving free park tickets to Geraldine F. Thompson, a Democratic state senator. She used Disney’s noncash contribution to increase interest in a fund-raiser for her re-election campaign. “Disney and Florida have finally kissed and made up,” said Dennis Speigel, the chief executive and founder of International Theme Park Services, an Ohio consulting and amusement park management firm. “The breakup was a lose-lose. It was only a matter of time.”

DCBaker18 hours ago

The CFTOD Board of Supervisors meeting begins in about 15 minutes, which will include a final reading of the Development Agreement between Disney and the CFTOD. Here’s a link to view the BoS packet. Here’s a link to watch:

flyakite2 days ago

It was in the Orlando Sentinel, so I have posted it here. Not sure who is the general counsel, why they are added to the Florida Retirement System, and why it must be announced. Actually, Kurt Ardaman and Daniel Langley are general counsel for CFTOD and maybe they are considered employees and not independent contractors.

DCBaker6 days ago

Here's the article: Florida’s Disney World oversight district is paying Orange County Elections Supervisor Glen Gilzean $20,000 a month through December as part of a consulting agreement quietly inked when he stepped down as administrator. Gilzean left his $400,000-a-year job leading the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District in March after less than a year of service. Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Gilzean, one of his political allies, to serve as Orange County’s supervisor of elections. That position has an annual salary of $205,000. What wasn’t publicly known during the transition nor submitted to the district’s board for approval or discussion was that Gilzean signed a consulting agreement from April 1 through the end of the year. Stephanie Kopelousos, another DeSantis political ally who replaced Gilzean, authorized the agreement. The district’s board approved her hiring on March 27. The Orlando Sentinel made numerous inquiries into Gilzean’s status with the district since he stepped down, but the district never provided answers until now. Between his elections job and consulting contract, Gilzean is drawing a taxpayer-funded income of about $37,000 a month. State Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, said she is concerned about Gilzean juggling consulting and election duties. “I think he should concentrate on one job and do it well and not have two jobs,” she said. “He should relinquish that contract. There is an election coming up, and he needs to concentrate on that.” Gilzean didn’t respond to a phone message and email on Thursday. As elections supervisor, he is responsible for overseeing voting in this year’s presidential election in Orange County. In a March 11 interview with News Spectrum 13, Gilzean said he would cut ties with the district when pressed on whether he would devote his full attention to the elections supervisor job. “The goal is to have a very seamless transition,” Gilzean said. “It is not fair to the taxpayers over in the district to be in two different areas at the same time.” Gilzean has not said if he will run for the elections job, which will be on the November ballot. He has until June 14 to qualify. Recently, he has faced criticism from several candidates who say he kept them in the dark on petitions that would allow them to qualify to run without paying a filing fee. District leaders defended the contract. Gilzean’s services were needed to ensure “the continuity of government functions,” and the contract is mirrored after similar arrangements with previous administrators, district spokesman Matthew Thomas Oberly said in a prepared statement. “With his experience and understanding of our organization, Mr. Gilzean provides valuable knowledge that will aid in a successful transition,” Oberly said. District officials provided a copy of the consulting agreement. They also released monthly reports for April and May from Gilzean that detail outreach work he did with veteran-owned businesses as part of the district’s program to provide contracting opportunities to local companies. “To date, Mr. Gilzean has provided valuable insight regarding outstanding projects to Administrator Kopelousos,” Oberly said. “Per standard practice, consulting agreements do not go before the board.” The agreement doesn’t include a list of specific tasks for Gilzean, although it notes that requested services will be performed on a “part-time basis and shall not interfere with … other full-time employment obligations.” The district can terminate the agreement early with or without cause, according to the terms. The Disney district’s five-member, DeSantis-appointed board named Gilzean to the administrator post in May 2023 as part of a state overhaul. He served in that role until March when DeSantis picked Gilzean to fill a vacancy created by long-time Democratic elections chief Bill Cowles’ retirement. Charbel Barakat, acting chairman of the district’s board, said he was aware of the consulting agreement but was advised it did not require a vote. “We wanted to make sure there was no disruption. … This is in a lot of ways one of the most complex local governments in the state,” he said. “There are a lot of moving pieces.” Gilzean’s predecessor, John Classe, stayed on as a special adviser as part of a one-year employment agreement that the board approved in May 2023 when Gilzean took over. Under that agreement, Classe continued to earn his $355,000 annual salary, which equates to about $29,500 a month. But the district terminated the agreement early on Aug. 30. Gilzean previously served as a DeSantis appointee on the Florida Commission on Ethics. He also was president and CEO of Central Florida Urban League before joining the Disney district. His stint on the Ethics Commission ended when media reports showed he violated a state law prohibiting members from holding public employment. He resigned his unpaid position as ethics commission chairman in August, rather than quit his job leading the Disney oversight district.

flyakite6 days ago

Gilzean has been paid $20K per month by CFTOD as a consultant until December. Not sure if Orlando Sentinel article is behind paywall. Maybe someone can help if it is.

LudwigVonDrake8 days ago

No real details except the $17 billion and $8 billion numbers. They approved it and the final approval is June 12

DCBaker8 days ago

The CFTOD Board of Supervisors meeting to discuss the Developer's Agreement is about to begin:

BrianLo8 days ago

Which is already a bit of a platitude. Let's commit to spending half of what we are already spending anyways. Similarly to DL Forward. They are likely intending to spend double what they promised Anaheim as well. We'll have to see the teeth of the Master Agreement. At least the Anaheim one has actual clauses and means of verifying they met their spending commitments.

flynnibus8 days ago

YES - because as I said... THAT'S WHAT THE COMP PLAN DEFINES This is an agreement that says the new comp plan must include AT LEAST these thresholds.. and the comp plan's PURPOSE is to define the maximums for the property. The issue isn't a typo - it's your lack of understanding of the comp plan and what these numbers are for. You are fixated on text that says 'this number must be a minimum of 5' and not understanding what '5' is used for. The comp plan does not define that there must be 5 theme parks - it says there can be UP TO 5.

Advisable Joseph8 days ago

Again, you are getting "maximum" in here somehow. But anyway, I think it is a typo: unless the minimums actually get enshrined in the Plan or the LDR (see subsection C and the syntax is ambiguous), it would be irrelevant. The only thing making me wonder if it was an intentional decision is the notion that the fifth gate could be part of the price of the settlement. Desantis seemed to want another park.

flynnibus8 days ago

Read the text that precedes the table and it will make more sense. "The District agrees to adopt the Updated Comprehensive Plan on terms and conditions that are consistent with this Agreement, and memorializing, at minimum: - The development program (types and intensities) reflected in Table B, Updated Comprehensive Plan Project Development Table, Column B." It's literally a commitment to say the new Comp Plan will include allowances that AT LEAST this much will be allowed in the Comp Plan. The Comp Plan is itself defining the maximums allowed for the property. So this text is saying the new agreement should include maximums that are AT LEAST as large as Table B, Column B.

Advisable Joseph8 days ago

I'm not sure how you get that from "Updated Comprehensive Plan Minimum Development." Again, "maximum" would make more sense. I think that may be a typo? Even the text refers to the column as a development program that the district must memorialize in the plan. Does "development program" imply "maximum" somehow?