Disney World’s government recently dismissed four employees, which included the Communications Director and a human resources executive, just before the holidays following the state’s takeover.
In the beginning of this year, Governor Ron DeSantis took control of the government board responsible for infrastructure needs and road management for 25,000 acres of land, which is predominantly owned by Walt Disney World. Prior to this, the board was under the control of Disney.
In May, Glen Gilzean was hired as the new district administrator by the board under DeSantis’ leadership.
The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, formerly known as Reedy Creek, recently announced a reorganization and let go of several key employees. Among those dismissed were Communications Director Eryka Washington Perry, Chief Human Resources Officer Jason Middleton, Human Resources Administrative Assistant Sherri DeSorcy, and Facilities Maintenance Specialist Rodney Moore.
According to a recent report by the Orlando Sentinel, Washington Perry used to work as a TV news reporter and served as a public information officer for former Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala. Perry was later hired by the district in 2019 under the administration of John Classe, who has since left the position.
Attempts to contact Washington Perry, Moore, or Middleton for comment were unsuccessful as of Tuesday. DeSorcy stated that she was not provided with any explanation for her termination.
According to a report by Seeking Rents, over 30 district employees have resigned following DeSantis’ takeover, resulting in a wave of departures among the workforce. Several employees have cited low morale and a toxic work environment as reasons for their resignation, blaming poor leadership for their dissatisfaction.
During the last week’s board meeting, Gilzean stated that employee morale has increased. He highlighted his open-door policy and the fact that employees were given an additional day off for Thanksgiving and Veteran’s Day, which has now become an official district holiday.
Disney World’s dispute with the state gained national attention, with many people learning for the first time that Disney World has its own government. In 1967, the state created the district to lure Walt Disney into building his Magic Kingdom in Orlando.
Disney World has been able to operate without the interference of outside municipal governments for decades because the district has taken care of tasks typically handled by county governments. This includes building roads, coding, running a fire department, and other necessary duties.
Recently, the state of Florida and Disney have had a strained relationship. This tension resulted in two separate lawsuits after the theme park giant spoke out against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education legislation, which has been dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
In response to the actions taken by DeSantis and the Republicans, Disney has accused them of singling out the company for exercising its constitutional right to freedom of speech. The passing of a new law this year has given DeSantis the authority to appoint new members onto the Reedy Creek Board of Supervisors and has granted state inspectors access to the monorail.
On the other hand, Republicans have been advocating for increased state oversight and an independent board for the Mouse. The members appointed by DeSantis have additionally accused Disney of attempting to diminish their authority by making agreements with the previous board members just weeks before the state took control.
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