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Chief of Disney World's special district is advised to exit Florida ethics panel

A sign near the entrance of the Reedy Creek Improvement District administration building is seen Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, in Lake Buena Vista. Disney’s government in Florida was the envy of any private business, giving it unprecedented powers in deciding what and how to build at Walt Disney World. Those days are numbered as a new bill released in early February 2023 puts the entertainment giant’s district firmly in the control of Florida’s governor and legislative leaders.
John Raoux
/
AP
A sign near the entrance of the Reedy Creek Improvement District administration building is seen Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, in Lake Buena Vista. Lawmakers and DeSantis replaced the former Reedy Creek Improvement District with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District on Feb. 27.

Glen Gilzean, administrator of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, shouldn’t continue to serve as a member of the Florida Commission on Ethics while holding a public job, the ethics panel’s general counsel concluded Thursday.

Glen Gilzean, administrator of a special district that includes Walt Disney World properties, shouldn’t continue to serve as a member of the Florida Commission on Ethics while holding a public job, the ethics panel’s general counsel concluded Thursday.

Commission lawyer Steve Zuilkowski wrote it would be “inconsistent” with state law for Gilzean to maintain his position as administrator of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District while serving on the commission, where he is chairman. Gilzean had requested an opinion on holding the dual positions through the end of his term on the commission.

Gilzean has been an unpaid member of the commission since 2019. Gov. Ron DeSantis reappointed Gilzean in 2022, and his term is slated to run through June 2024.

In May, Gilzean was appointed to the $400,000-a-year position as administrator of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The move came after lawmakers and DeSantis replaced the former Reedy Creek Improvement District with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

The former Reedy Creek district was created in the 1960s and was closely tied to Disney. But it was replaced after DeSantis and Disney clashed about the company’s opposition to a 2022 law that restricts instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida schools.

Ben Wilcox, of the Integrity Florida advocacy group, said public officials shouldn’t sit on a board that judges ethics cases of other public officials.

“Just the appearance of a member of the commission having a conflict of interest would not be good for the commission’s reputation,” Wilcox said.