Potential Ethics Violations and Conflicts of Interest Surrounding Appointment of Glen Gilzean by Governor Ron DeSantis

In recent news, it has been revealed that Glen Gilzean, the chair of the Florida Commission on Ethics, has been appointed to several other positions by Governor Ron DeSantis. This includes the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board, where Gilzean serves as the administrator. However, it has come to light that Gilzean may be in violation of state statute, as a member of the ethics commission is not allowed to hold any public employment.[0]

Gilzean was first appointed to the ethics commission in August 2019 by Governor DeSantis. Since then, he has been reappointed in 2020 and 2022. In addition to the ethics commission, Gilzean was also appointed to the Re-Open Florida Task Force and the Florida Census Complete Count Committee.[1]

The conflict arose when Gilzean was appointed as the administrator of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District in May. This position comes with a salary of $400,000 a year. The move to appoint Gilzean came after lawmakers and Governor DeSantis replaced the former Reedy Creek Improvement District with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.[2]

According to state statute, members of the ethics commission are not allowed to hold any public employment.[3] This means that Gilzean may be in violation of the law by serving in both positions. In a legal memo, it was revealed that Gilzean had spoken with the ethics commission’s director and another ethics officer in April about the conflict.[4] Gilzean claimed that he had received legal advice elsewhere about holding both positions and wanted to continue serving on the ethics commission.

However, the ethics commission’s general counsel, Steven Zuilkowski, stated in his opinion that Gilzean had been informed about the public employment requirement during the April conference call. Despite this, Gilzean maintained that he had received legal advice elsewhere and wanted a written legal opinion to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District has also come under scrutiny for alleged unethical benefits and perks. The district claimed that the former Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was controlled by Disney, used taxpayer funds to provide season passes and other benefits to its employees and board members.[5] The district has asked the Florida Inspector General to investigate these perks.[5]

Gilzean and Governor DeSantis have not responded to requests for comment on the matter.[4] The ethics commission is responsible for investigating complaints of breach of the public trust by public officers and employees.[6] It describes itself as the guardian of the standards of conduct for officers and employees of Florida.[6]

Overall, the appointment of Glen Gilzean to multiple positions by Governor Ron DeSantis raises questions about potential conflicts of interest and violations of state statute. The investigation into these matters will shed light on the ethics and transparency of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and the actions of its board members.

0. “‘Conflict’: DeSantis ally can’t lead both ethics board and Disney district, lawyer says” Tallahassee Democrat, 17 Aug. 2023, https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/politics/2023/08/17/ethics-chair-disney-district-head-must-leave-a-role-lawyer-advises/70611354007

1. “Florida ethics chairperson violated commission’s own rules, legal opinion says” Tampa Bay Times, 17 Aug. 2023, https://www.tampabay.com/news/florida-politics/2023/08/17/desantis-ethics-commission-florida-reedy-creek/

2. “DeSantis-appointed Disney chief can’t hold both posts, ethics lawyer says” Creative Loafing Tampa, 18 Aug. 2023, https://www.cltampa.com/news/desantis-appointed-disney-chief-cant-hold-both-posts-ethics-lawyer-says-16191863

3. “Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s chief has a conflict of interest issue brewing with his position on DeSantis …” wdwmagic.com, 17 Aug. 2023, https://www.wdwmagic.com/other/reedy-creek-improvement-district/news/17aug2023-central-florida-tourism-oversight-districts-chief-has-a-conflict-of-interest-issue-brewing-with-his-position-on-desantis-ethics-commission.htm

4. “DeSantis ally has conflict-of-interest by serving on Disney district, legal opinion states” POLITICO, 17 Aug. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/08/17/desantis-glen-gilzean-disney-legal-00111740

5. “Theme park news: Disney board stipends / Ultra Surf coaster / Camp Snoopy at Knott’s overhaul” Theme Park Tribune, 22 Aug. 2023, https://www.themeparktribune.com/theme-park-news-disney-board-stipends-ultra-surf-coaster-camp-snoopy-at-knotts-overhaul

6. “Critical Conflict Exposed for Leader of Disney’s Reedy Creek District” AllEars.Net, 17 Aug. 2023, https://allears.net/2023/08/17/critical-conflict-exposed-for-leader-of-disneys-reedy-creek-district

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