The chair of Florida's ethics commission has an ethics problem, but it's due to working at The Mouse rather than being a rat.
Glen Gilzean, the new administrator of Walt Disney World’s governing district, can't continue to work in his new job and chair the Florida Commission on Ethics at the same time since Florida law prohibits public employees from serving as members on the commission, according to a legal opinion issued Thursday.
The ethics commission is charged with setting the standards of conduct for public employees and public officeholders in Florida, and it investigates complaints of violations.
Gilzean is an ally of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and was selected to the position in May by DeSantis' appointees who took control of the governing district's board. The takeover was in retaliation for Disney’s public opposition to the “ Don’t Say Gay ” legislation championed by DeSantis and Republican lawmakers.
Members on the ethics commission don't earn a salary. Gilzean earns an annual salary of $400,000 as the administrator of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
Gilzean had asked the ethics commission's lawyer to issue an opinion on whether it was kosher to hold both positions. The district is a taxing district and a political subdivision of the state of Florida, making Gilzean a public employee, according to the opinion from Steven Zuilkowski, the commission's general counsel.
“Maintaining the public employment is inconsistent with the requirements” of being a commission member, the opinion said.
An email seeking comment was sent Friday to Gilzean and a spokesperson for the district.
A fight between DeSantis and Disney began last year after the company, facing significant pressure internally and externally, publicly opposed a state law banning classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades.
As punishment, DeSantis took over the district through legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature and appointed a new board of supervisors to oversee municipal services for the sprawling theme parks and hotels. But the new supervisors’ authority over design and construction has been limited by the company’s agreements with Disney-supporting predecessors, which were signed before the new board took over.
In response, Florida lawmakers passed legislation that repealed those agreements.
Disney has sued DeSantis in federal court claiming the governor violated the company's free speech rights. The district has sued Disney in state court, seeking to nullify the agreements.
The district asked this week for a judge to rule in its favor without a need for a trial. Disney on Thursday filed a counter-claim asking the judge for the same thing, except in the company's favor.
“Disney faces concrete, imminent, and ongoing injury as a result of the contractual impairment,” Disney said in a court filing.
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Mike Schneider, The Associated Press