ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Nearly a year after state lawmakers passed a law giving Florida’s governor control over Walt Disney World’s governing district, Gov. Ron De Santis On Thursday he called the acquisition a success, despite the exodus of workers, ongoing litigation and the scandal surrounding one of his appointees.

DeSantis took a victory lap of sorts during a news conference at Disney World, touting a first-round victory in the litigation with Disney over who controls the district, which had been run by Disney supporters for more than five decades until the takeover. control last year.

The governor also said his appointees’ takeover of the district had created more transparency and accountability, reduced the tax burden on Disney and the theme park’s outside shops and restaurants, and made the district’s contract awards more competitive. district. The district provides municipal services such as firefighting, planning and mosquito control, among others.

“That’s a victory, not only for the people of this region, but for the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis’ visit to Disney World came three weeks after a federal judge in Tallahassee dismissed Disney’s free speech lawsuit against the governor and his appointees to the district’s governing board. Disney is appealing the ruling.

Disney had argued that legislation transferring control of the district from Disney supporters to DeSantis appointees was retaliation for the company’s public opposition to the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. The 2022 law banned classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades and was championed by DeSantis, who had used Disney as a punching bag in campaign speeches until he suspended his nomination campaign. 2024 Republican presidential nomination earlier this year.

A separate lawsuit over who controls the district is still pending in state court in Orlando. Before control of the district changed hands early last year, Disney supporters on its board of directors signed agreements with Disney transferring control over design and construction at Disney World to the company. DeSantis’ new appointees claimed the “last-minute deals” neutered their powers, and the district sued the company in state court to void the contracts.

Disney has filed countersuits that include asking the state court to declare the agreements valid and enforceable.

Since the acquisition, about 50 of the district’s 370 employees have left, raising questions about whether the district can function with so many vacancies. Many of the outgoing workers complained that the district has become politicized, that politically connected associates have been hired or awarded contracts, and that the backgrounds of the five DeSantis appointees have been distracting.

One of the appointees, Bridget Ziegler, co-founder of Moms for Liberty, has been accused of hypocrisy after admitting to having a sexual relationship with her husband and another woman, even though the Zieglers have very publicly fought against LGBTQ+ rights. Her husband, Christian Ziegler, was recently ousted as head of the Florida Republican Party, and the Sarasota Police Department has asked prosecutors to charge him with illegally videotaping the sexual encounter he had with the woman.

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By Sam