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Death Threats and Intimidation as New Board of Former Disney District Gets To Work

Exclusive: Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board members tell The Florida Standard they will work to clean up Disney’s mess despite bullying and threats.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA — The new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District continues its mission to manage the former Disney-run region despite attempts by the entertainment giant to render them powerless.

In the weeks following the first two board meetings, at least one member of the new board has received death threats and intimidating calls, which were reported to local law enforcement. The district has largely been controlled by fear and some local employees have told new board members they are afraid to come forward as whistleblowers unless they have some sort of protection. It is still unknown who is behind the intimidation and threats.

But board members tell The Florida Standard they are moving forward on important work required to manage the district, even as they face uphill legal battles with Disney. The board has a fiduciary duty to Governor DeSantis, the Legislature and the public – and state that they are committed to cleaning up the local mess left by the entertainment behemoth.


One of those messes is the employment contract still in negotiation with district first responders. What started as a negotiation of employment terms led to five years of bullying by former Disney district supervisors. As a result, firefighters and paramedics continue to work under a contract that expired in 2018.

But the new district board is already about halfway through a productive negotiation with first responders. Jon Shirey, President of the Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters Union says it will go a long way in enhancing public safety in the district.

“When we first started negotiations, the district brought in a law firm that basically tried to strip every single right and benefit and incentive, and pretty much everything you can imagine that makes it good to be an employee, you know, in any workplace,” Shirey tells The Florida Standard. “We're taking everything from you guys and there's nothing you can do about it,” Shirey says they were told during the negotiation process.

New district board members have seen firsthand the labor fights between Disney and its own employees and said that locals are fearful about speaking out. First responders were treated similarly as they faced intimidation from the district.

“In the past nothing would happen without Disney’s OK,” Shirey said. “Now we have a board that’s accountable to the citizens and to our state legislature and to the governor – their single interest is no longer to Disney like the previous board.”


Disney contended in a statement that “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.”

But board members say the agreements were drafted behind closed doors and “rammed through” in two meetings which were two weeks apart. Information on what happened at previous board meetings is not available for review. Board members said they were given a packet by the staff of former Disney supervisors to reference at their first board meeting, but the packet did not contain anything about recently-signed contracts.

One board member told The Florida Standard that as far as they’re concerned, Disney knew this was important information but didn’t give it to new board members and concealed it from public view because they knew it was wrong. Board members later received harassing phone calls from Disney lawyers warning them the governor’s plan would backfire.

Board members said if Disney wanted to partner with the State of Florida, as they have said – to bring new job opportunities and growth – they should have negotiated openly and transparently.

The structure is still very friendly to Disney, one board member said.Universal, SeaWorld or any other business does not have this structure where most of the attention is on taking care of a district that directly benefits Walt Disney World.