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Member of Ron DeSantis’ Disney governing board quits role

A member of Gov Ron DeSantis’ Disney oversight board has resigned just three months into his tenure, Spectrum News 13 first reported.

Michael Sasso, an Orlando-based attorney, was one of five people Mr DeSantis appointed to the board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District after the state seized control of Walt Disney World’s special tax district earlier this year.

It is not yet clear why Mr Sasso, the managing partner of a law firm focused on election law and business and construction litigation, stepped down from the board late last week — just days after Mr DeSantis appointed Mr Sasso’s wife, Judge Meredith Sasso, to the state Supreme Court.

Mr Sasso has long been a close ally of Mr DeSantis, who has also appointed him to roles on the state’s Public Employees Relations Commission and the Judicial Nominating Commission for the Sixth District Court of Appeals. The Florida Bulldog reported last week that Mr Sasso’s resignation from the tourism oversight board may be linked to Ms Sasso’s new role on the state Supreme Court.

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The Independent has reached out to Mr Sasso for comment on this story.

The oversight district Mr DeSantis established earlier this year is just the latest frontier in a long-running battle between Mr DeSantis and Disney, one of his state’s largest and most visible business entities. The conflict began when Disney spoke out against the governor’s “Don’t Say Gay” law limiting speech about gender and sexuality in public schools, and has escalated in the months since.

In February, Mr DeSantis struck a material blow against the company — signing legislation revoking Disney’s control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District that Disney had self-governed for decades. The law gave Mr DeSantis the power to appoint a five-person oversight board to govern the district, which Mr DeSantis filled with appointees including Mr Sasso.

Disney, meanwhile, sued Mr DeSantis and other state officials in federal court last month for putting its business in danger and violating its free speech rights.

“A targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech — now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights,” the lawsuit reads in part.

While the lawsuit plays itself out in the courts, Mr DeSantis has turned at least a portion of his attention away from matters in Florida as he runs for president. The governor, long touted as a possibly formidable rival to former President Donald Trump, launched his campaign with an event on Twitter last week.