A Florida board created to oversee Walt Disney World‘s special taxation district is considering legal action after finding its power over the entertainment giant’s resort has been eviscerated.
Florida lawmakers passed a bill on Feb. 10 giving Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis effective control over a board that oversees municipal services and development in the special district that encompasses the resort in retaliation for the Los Angeles-based company’s criticism of the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
But before the takeover by DeSantis’ appointees, The Walt Disney Company pushed through restrictive covenants and a development agreement that will limit the new board’s power for decades.
“It completely circumvents the authority of this board to govern,” said new board member Brian Aungst Jr. “This board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintain the roads and maintain basic infrastructure.”
The outgoing board granted Disney broad veto powers over any improvements or changes to properties in the park and forbade the the new board from using Disney’s brand name or any of its trademarks.
The action took place Feb. 8 in an open, public meeting that apparently was not attended by DeSantis aides and preceded passage of the bill creating the new board.
A DeSantis spokesperson argued that the restrictions on the new board are “void as a matter of law” and promised an investigation.
Disney said its action was proper, issuing a statement that noted “all agreements signed between Disney and the district were appropriate and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law.”
Florida Republicans targeted Disney after it publicly clashed with DeSantis, widely considered a 2024 presidential candidate, over a law known as “Don’t Say Gay” that restricts classroom instruction of gender and sexual orientation.
Disney’s then-chief executive officer, Bob Chapek, publicly voiced disappointment with the measure, saying he called DeSantis to express concern about it becoming law.
Reuters contributed to this article.