There seems to be quite a bit of confusion as to the whole Reedy Creek/Disney World Annual Pass situation that the current Board of the since-renamed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District has labeled a “scheme to funnel millions of taxpayer dollars to Disney as season passes”. In this article, we’re going to provide some background on the situation and (hopefully) offer some clarity as to the arrangement.
In an August 21st press release posted to the homepage of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, the current government announced that had “submitted a referral to the Florida Inspector General regarding millions of dollars’ worth of perks and benefits that the former Disney-controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District funneled back to Disney”.
In the letter, which was reviewed by BlogMickey.com, CFTOD General Counsel Dan Langley sent an email to Chief Investigator Heather Robinson and Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel. In the email, Langley said that the CFTOD legal team was reviewing documents and “discovered taxpayer dollars were going to purchase Disney World season passes for employees and board members”. Langley said that the legal team’s investigation was ongoing, but that they have reviewed thousands of documents that “raise several issues regarding the entangled nature of RCID’s relationship with Disney”.
Langley does not allege any illegality in the email, simply noting the transactional nature of the Main Entrance pass system. That is, the RCID was paying millions to Disney for the passes. In the email, it was noted that all RCID employees received Main Entrance Passes to Disney World and that Board Members received VIP Main Entrance Passes. There is nothing in the documents that we reviewed to suggest that Disney was gifting the Main Entrance passes to RCID employees. Instead, the passes were essentially perks of employment with the District.
In an August 23rd meeting, CFTOD Board of Supervisors Chair Martin Garcia addressed what he alluded to as potential illegality with the Disney World theme park passes.
…let me tell you the other problem that it was creating. A — a private company cannot give gifts to government workers that provide services for them or have authority over them for obvious reasons. And many of the people that were receiving these passes had the notion, and by the way, it’s been reported in the media, that these were — that these passes were being provided free by Disney. Well, that — that is clearly unlawful in Florida, ok? Disney cannot provide free passes to government employees that are providing services to them or have authority over them. And so we wanted to eliminate that concern.
Of course, you don’t have to do much parsing to see that he said that employees had a “notion” that the passes were free, and that the Board wanted to “eliminate that concern”. What Garcia didn’t say was that the passes were actually provided by Disney as a gift or provided free of charge. Instead of the Board clearly explaining to employees that the passes were not free or gifts, Garcia and the Board decided to simply remove that perk as a way of “eliminating” the concern that employees thought the passes were free.
Even if Garcia hadn’t discussed the Board’s intentions in the August 23rd meeting, we can actually go back to the press release to find irrefutable evidence that the passes weren’t free. In the press release is a link to an invoice from Disney clearly laying out the amounts that they were charging the District for the employee theme park passes. These documents were provided to the Inspector General as part of the email reviewed by BlogMickey.com.
While Garcia was able to slip in a sentence that could indicate that Disney was doing something illegal, it’s clear that the Board knew that nothing illegal was happening in terms of any unlawful gifts from Disney to the Reedy Creek government. Garcia did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s clear that theme park passes that were previously offered to CFTOD/RCID employees were not gifts from Disney World. In fact, Disney charged the District for the passes. At the end of the day, the passes appear to simply be a perk of employment that the current Board decided to end. The proposal to end the Main Entrance Pass perk was not well received by the District firefighters, who spoke out at the last meeting.
As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!