A Tampa attorney and “Jeopardy!” champion will join Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Disney World board of trustees, which is the focus of his nationally watched battle with the world-famous attraction.
DeSantis on Thursday named Charbel Barakat a member of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s five-member board of directors.
He will replace Michael Sasso, an Orlando attorney who resigned on May 22, a day before his wife, Meredith Sasso, was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court by DeSantis.
Barakat is vice president and chief adviser for the Florida and Mid-Atlantic regions of DR Horton Inc., the nation’s largest homebuilder.
He is vice president of the Tampa Bay branch of the Federalist Society, a conservative rights group. He is also a member of Florida Development Finance Corp. and Commissioner of the Judicial Nominating Commission of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which recruits, interviews, and certifies candidates for the judiciary.
“I am honored to be asked by Governor DeSantis to serve the people of Florida,” Barakat said in a prepared statement. “I hope to help bring greater efficiency, safety and accountability to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District so that it can better serve the common good.”
Barakat’s nomination to Disney’s board of directors is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Barakat won about $30,000 on “Jeopardy!” quiz show, according to a 2018 report by 10 Tampa Bay.
Chief Executive Martin Garcia commended the appointment of Barakat, who brings nearly 20 years of legal experience in real estate development and public finance to the position.
“His experience will help the district comply with all applicable Florida laws, develop new governance policies, provide greater financial transparency, evaluate new urban planning strategies, and promote greater prosperity for more people in central Florida,” Garcia said in a prepared statement .
Sasso gave no specific reason for his resignation from the board in the letter of resignation presented to the governor. He did not respond to requests for comment from the Orlando Sentinel.
“The men and women of the district are among the most honorable, dedicated and decent people I have known,” Sasso wrote in his letter to the governor released Thursday. “It has been an honor to work with them on behalf of the State of Florida.”
Sasso was one of five people DeSantis named to the board in late February to replace pro-Disney members.
The move came as DeSantis was fighting Disney over its opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Act, which critics called “don’t say gay.” The law restricts teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools.
The dispute is now before the court. Disney sued DeSantis and other state officials in federal court alleging “a targeted government retaliation campaign.” The Tourism Inspectorate has filed a counterclaim in a state court.