“…the company treated district employees like Disney employees by, for instance, providing complimentary annual passes and steep discounts benefits and perks that were akin to bribes.”
An audit by the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) revealed that Disney controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) by hand-picking board members and giving them a bunch of perks.
Florida allowed Disney to purchase the land that would house his dynasty. Walt Disney wanted to keep businesses and other places from popping up nearby. Landowners elected the Board of Supervisors.
The five members are senior Disney supervisors.
In January, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the legislation took over Disney’s jurisdiction.
A few weeks later, DeSantis signed a law that abolished all special benefit districts formed before 1968. Therefore, the law eliminated RCID.
DeSantis championed the bill after Disney went woke.
The CFTOD admitted those who worked at RCID worked hard, except for one thing: Disney controlled the RCID Board of Supervisors.
“Nonetheless, because of the decisions made by RCID management and the Board of Supervisors, their work was tainted with the appearance of impropriety,” wrote the CFTOD. “As comprehensively documented within, for years, the company treated district employees like Disney employees by, for instance, providing complimentary annual passes and steep discounts benefits and perks that were akin to bribes.”
That meant “the District’s employees believed that it was their job to prioritize the interests of Disney.”
You had to own land to be eligible for the Board. The report claimed that Disney gave its “preferred Board members” a temporary deed to a 5-acre plot, which they would have until the end of their term. Then, the member has to give the land back to Disney.
Disney would also pay “the tax liability that Board members incurred as a result of owning property in the District.”
The CFTOD pointed out that paying the tax liability is “an improper cash gift.”
Disney also gave lavish gifts to all RCID employees…not just the board members. The company portrayed the gifts as a thank you for their hard work. No one told the employees “that the benefits they received were improper.”
Disney labeled the spending as “financial and administrative services.”
Are you ready for the perks? Wow:
- Millions of dollars of annual passes for entry to Disney theme parks worldwide for at least the RCID recipient and three family members
- 40-percent discounts on Disney cruises
- Free transferable single-use tickets during the holiday season
- Steep discounts on Disney merchandise
- Steep discounts on food and beverages in the Disney theme parks and resorts
- Access to non-public shopping reserved for Disney cast members, where merchandise was steeply discounted and items were made available that were otherwise not available for public purchase
The perks were valued between $3,672 and $4,898 from 2018 to 2023. The total cost was between $1.78 million to $2.54 million annually.
The CFTOD also detailed how RCID’s lack of action due to it catering Disney failed the employees and those outside of the district. It never offered social and community services. No housing, hospitals, schools, etc.
RCID didn’t bother documenting the purchase of $70 million of assets from Disney. Deferring road maintenance projects led to more road maintenance costs.
It is horrible that RCID had no authority to enforce “any enforcement mechanism for code violations, like violations of its fire prevention, building, and safety code.” That put visitors to the parks in danger.
It’s also totally not suspicious that no one transcribed meetings of the Board of Supervisors or published agendas.
Disney had cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, both of which only have “current or former Disney employees or tenants,” perform certain tasks, including contracting police protection:
Disney continues to exercise ongoing control over the Cities. The members of the Cities’ city councils all live on Disney property, leasing steeply discounted plots of land for their mobile homes. The Cities contract with Orange County to provide police protection inside the District, including approximately $8 million in off-duty officers that the Cities provide for police protection on Disney property. Other District businesses do not receive off-duty police protection and must contract for and pay for such protection themselves, when they require it.
Disney also forced RCID only to use vendors approved by the company.
Disney insists that the unique structure of the District was integral to the growth of Central Florida. The truth is that Disney needed the structure to maximize its profits, which is above and beyond succeeding as a business. To be sure, Disney still would have been tremendously profitable absent the unparalleled carve outs it received through the RCID.
What’s more, the company’s success has been far less reciprocal than Disney would care to admit. As of November 2023, institutional investors attribute over 85 percent of Disney’s current stock-market value to its theme-park and consumer-products related businesses.4 So as advantageous as Disney has been to Central Florida, the converse is true many times over.
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