Disney sues DeSantis-appointed government for withholding public records

Disney has filed a lawsuit against the oversight government for Walt Disney World, claiming that it has not complied with Florida public records law by failing to release documents and properly preserve records. The oversight government, known as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD), was taken over by appointees of Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this year. Disney alleges that the CFTOD has been slow in fulfilling its public records duties and has not fully responded to a request made by the company seven months ago.

The lawsuit is part of a broader battle for control between Disney, DeSantis, and the DeSantis-appointed board members. There are currently two pending lawsuits in federal and state court regarding this matter. In the public records lawsuit, Disney is asking a judge to review any documents claimed as exempt by the CFTOD, declare that the district is violating state public records law, and order the release of the requested documents.

According to the lawsuit, the CFTOD has also failed to follow public records laws in other ways, such as allowing board members to use personal email addresses and texts for district business without proper preservation measures. The lawsuit argues that the district should ensure that board members do not auto-delete messages related to district business.

The conflict between DeSantis and Disney began when the company publicly opposed a state law banning classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, which DeSantis championed. In response, DeSantis and Republican legislators took over the district previously controlled by Disney and appointed board members loyal to the governor. Since the takeover, approximately 50 employees have left the CFTOD, raising concerns about the loss of institutional knowledge and the reputation of a well-run government.

The lawsuit seeks to address the alleged violations of public records law by the CFTOD and ensure that Disney can access the information it has requested. The outcome of this legal battle will likely have implications for the ongoing power struggle between Disney and DeSantis over control of the government overseeing Walt Disney World.


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