Disney World governing district’s new whistleblower policy makes it more transparent, officials say

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The state-appointed Disney World governing board wants to send a message: It's more transparent.

Disney World’s new governing board enacted a whistleblower policy for district employees to report concerns for the first time.

Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board chairman Martin Garcia said the new policy signals a new culture at Disney’s special independent district.

Garcia said district employees and staff complained “their grievances, or concerns or more ideas, were falling on deaf ears back to the prior board.”

It’s one of several changes the Gov. Ron DeSantis-appointed board has made since taking over Disney World’s special district this year. The board unanimously approved the policy during Wednesday’s meeting.

Garcia pledged the new board will be more “open, honest, transparent and receptive to ideas.”

“Hopefully that sends a message that the culture here is from the board’s perspective, we want to hear from you — good, bad and ugly, whatever it is,” Garcia said.

The policy says employees can report illegal activity and wrongdoing and are protected from retaliation. The policy takes effect immediately for non-union employees, and the district will delay the policy for union employees who collectively bargain. The policy does not replace the State of Florida’s Whistleblower Act.

Since taking over, the new board has posted meeting agendas online, live-streamed its meetings, and hired a new administrator to oversee the special district that handles Disney World’s utilities, roads and emergency services.

Garcia criticized the old board for what he said had “essentially no board policies.”

The DeSantis-appointed board members replaced the former board members who had essentially been chosen by The Walt Disney Company.

DeSantis and Republican supporters pushed through a law that allowed the state to take over Disney World’s governing board and replace it with new members after Disney spoke out against the “Parental Rights in Education” legislation otherwise dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”

Disney, DeSantis and the governing board have been embroiled in litigation ever since. Disney has accused DeSantis of retaliating against the company for exercising its freedom of speech. DeSantis and the governing board say Disney tried to hijack the state-run board by approving last-minute development deals with the outgoing board to steal the new board’s power.

At Wednesday’s board meeting, the board did not vote on a new contract for union firefighters and instead scheduled a closed meeting Friday to discuss union negotiations.

As reported by Florida Politics, Disney World firefighter union leader Jon Shirey blamed union members for sharing the proposed contract on social media and with media outlets, claiming the district then faced a backlash from other community leaders upset about the firefighters’ proposed salary increases. The union had already approved the contract that would have raised firefighters’ minimum pay from $55,000 to $65,000.

“We just shot ourselves in the foot to the tune of millions of dollars that this agreement would have put into the pockets of our members,” Shirey wrote union members. “If/when we come to some new agreement, don’t share it with your family, your friends, members of other departments, and definitely not randomly out on social media. DO NOT SHARE IT WITH ANYONE!!!!”

District Administrator Glen Gilzean told the Orlando Sentinel after Wednesday’s meeting he is still working to finalize the contract.

“We’re going to give our firefighters the best resources … to be competitive not only here locally but also here with our neighbors,” Gilzean told the Sentinel.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


  • PeterH

    June 21, 2023 at 8:58 pm


  • Earl Pitts American

    June 21, 2023 at 9:31 pm

    Good evening America,
    Proof Positive that prior to Desantis liberating the employees from the Disney bought and paid for board the employees were treated like slaves. Thank you Desantis for emancipating those former Slaves.
    Many of the former employees were forced by Disney to wear black face and loudly sing zippitee doo dah all the live long day.
    Ben Crump got a speeding tickit raceing here to represent the black slave employees but sadly found all the Disney slaves to be just white folks in employer forced black face. It has been reported Disney paid Crump a million dollars for his trouble and pain and suffering upon finding just a bunch of fake white slaves in black face.
    Thank you America,
    Earl Pitts American

  • Tom

    June 22, 2023 at 8:45 am

    There seems to be a trend lately of giving more power to those least qualified to have it. Clearly the desantis appointees are not qualified or they wouldn’t have been snookered so easily. Same with all these loons getting involved in local school district politics and their book banning under the guise of parental rights. I guess the fish really does rot from the head down.

    • Joe

      June 23, 2023 at 12:24 pm

      If they can’t destroy our institutions by force, then they’ll do it by forced incompetence.

  • Joe

    June 23, 2023 at 12:23 pm

    Transparency from a Desanctus crony? LOL riiiiight.

    Words never mean what they are supposed to in today’s GQP.

    • Joe

      June 23, 2023 at 12:26 pm

      Note that “board chairman” Martin Garcia donated at least $53,000 directly to Desanctus prior to his appointment here, so that’s the kind of cronyism we’re talking about here.

Comments are closed.


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