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DeSantis appointees target Disney World over free passes, employee discounts

The board that oversees Disney World’s governing district is targeting its Disney-aligned predecessors for handing out free passes and discounts to district employees, claiming those benefits funnel money back to Disney at the expense of taxpayers.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s board members, who were appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), submitted a complaint to the state inspector general claiming that giving district employees season passes and discounts on hotels, merchandise and food costs millions of dollars and amounts to unethical behavior. 

In a statement, the board members claimed that last year alone, the perks and benefits given to district employees and their families totaled about $2.5 million. 

“For decades, the former Disney-run RCID used taxpayer funds to provide season passes and amusement experiences to its employees and their family members, cover the cost of discounts on hotels, merchandise, food, and beverages, and give its own board members VIP Main Entrance passes,” according to the statement

“In addition to constituting unethical benefits and perks, the scheme 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,” the statement continued.

The complaint is another byproduct of the war DeSantis, who is running for president in 2024, has waged against Walt Disney World. 

After the Disney corporation publicly opposed a Florida law that prohibited teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom last year, DeSantis retaliated by passing legislation stripping Disney of its long-held self-governing status. In its place, he appointed allies to oversee the new district and renamed it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District from the previous Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID).

“Allowing a corporation to control its own government is bad policy, especially when the corporation makes decisions that impact an entire region,” DeSantis said in a statement at the time. “This legislation ends Disney’s self-governing status, makes Disney live under the same laws as everybody else, and ensures that Disney pays its debts and fair share of taxes.”

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Associated Press contributed.

— Updated 3:55 p.m.

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