The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 13, 1996 · Page 54
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 54

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Sunday, October 13, 1996
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Page 54
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7 E4 SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13. 1996 MONEY THE SALINA JOURNAL; V DISNEY WORLD Mickey can be meanie mouse, some say Beneath the pixie dust, Disney empire criticized as cold and cruel By MARK FRITZ The Associated Press ORLANDO, Fla. — Elena and Jaime Boruchovas are residents of Uruguay by way of Lithuania. When it came time to mark a major milestone — their 30th wedding anniversary — they did what Americans are supposed to do: They went to Disney World. On a spring evening in 1993, after a day of enjoying the sights and souvenirs, the couple stood on the street and watched a parade in the Magic Kingdom. They watched a float roll down the road carrying Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, their costumes glittering with electric lights. They watched a Disney character topple toward them. "One of the dwarfs, I think it was Dopey," said the couple's lawyer, Spencer Aronfeld of Miami. "It was enshrouded in lights and the lights exploded." This unlikely encounter would send the Boruchovas on a strange journey into the other Disney World, the one that can be as hard and cold as the steel and concrete beneath the fanciful facades of the Magic Kingdom. Blow away the pixie dust, and the company that conjures the fantasy is far from typical. Twenty-five-year-old Disney World is, in fact, a government entity, a 30,000-acre municipality that can tax and spend and patrol and develop like other communities, but which has been granted key exemptions from oversight that make it far less accountable. It has a reputation for toughness, aggressiveness, and litigious- ness that is unrivaled in the entertainment industry. And critics say it sometimes goes too far to protect its interests, shunning compromise in favor of confrontation. Disney insists it runs its business and defends its interests in a legal and ethical manner. One couple's experience Consider the couple from Uruguay. The exploding dwarf seriously injured Elena Boruchovas' left leg. On the third day of her hospitalization, Aronfeld said, a Spanish-speaking Disney representative visited the woman and persuaded her to sign a paper in English, a language the couple didn't understand, in exchange for $1,222. The woman said she thought it was a receipt for the money. The paper released Disney from liability, he said. Boruchovas' leg became infected. She had to have skin grafts. The couple sued. Aronfeld tried to get office space from other Orlando lawyers, a common practice in the profession, but said they all refused. He said Disney's lawyers "out-of- towned" him, scheduling hearings first thing in the morning so he would have to fly in the night before, cranking up his costs. In 1995, jurors awarded the couple $100,000. Disney World spokesman Bill Warren wouldn't comment on Aronfeld's claims. He defended the company's efforts to protect itself from legal action. "We run our business ethically and legally and that certainly includes our risk management operation, which we feel is one of the best," he said. Because Disney World controls so much of its corporate and municipal universe, it can't help but act in a heavy-handed manner to ferociously protect its self-interest, contends Richard Foglesong, a professor of politics and veteran Disney watcher who is writing a book about the company. wood said she believes Disney farms out as much legal work as it can so it can continually expand its legal army and limit the number of lawyers who can sue it. Warren had no comment. Jean Curry 2757 Belmont 823-5129 We'll always be there for you. Shelter insurance Co«., Home office; columlHa, MO TJeltv&i News and Value d&Salina Journal The Associated Press Disney security personnel observe visitors to the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. The theme park In Orlando, Fla., Is exempt from much oversight, including state amusement ride Inspections. "They have immunity from state and local land use law," he said. "They can build a nuclear plant, distribute alcohol. Florida has a history of giving tremendous leeway to big revenue producers. But there is evidence of some nervousness with Disney's relative autonomy. State Attorney General Bob Butterworth is fighting Disney's allegation that its police records are not bound by state public-records laws. Snaring 'shoplifters' Disney's undercover unit, called Fox, uses security officers dressed as tourists to intercept shoplifters at its many retail emporiums. Typically, Disney will get people to agree to a $200 fine if they admit wrongdoing. But there are complaints that innocent people are sometimes snared in the intense interdiction effort. People who profess innocence face a tough, costly fight to prove it. Terri Dorsett, a 17-year-old from Yadkinville, N.C., got a lesson in relentlessness after she visited the park with her school band last year. She and a few classmates visited a Disney store and were arrested for shoplifting, taken to the security office, fingerprinted and, her father says, prevented from calling anybody. "She was hysterical," said Thomas Dorsett, a North Carolina businessman. She also was innocent, she said. One of the other girls admitted dropping a $1.98 Mickey Mouse pen into Terri's shopping bag without her knowledge. He said his daughter passed a polygraph test. Dorsett said he met with prosecutors and • Disney officials who seemed sympathetic. He thought the company would drop her case. But it never did. Dorsett spent $15,000 fighting the criminal charge. His daughter was acquitted. Dorsett has filed a federal civil suit against Disney and says he is convinced that Disney maliciously prosecutes innocent people. "It's scary what can happen to a child," Dorsett says. "The prosecutor's office, they are scared of Disney. Disney rules that area with an iron fist. It's a joke. "Mickey Mouse is not the guy we thought he was," he said. Buying film Is horror story Vicki Prusnofsky, a metropolitan New York social worker, made one of her many trips to the park in February 1995 with her daughter and husband, a psychiatrist. They stayed in their time-share Disney World condominium. While the other two went to ride little race cars, Vicki Prusnofsky — accessorized in Mickey and Minnie earrings, Disney hat and sweatshirt — went to buy film. She didn't bother to take her receipt, she said. "I finally went outside and sat on a bench and started loading the camera," she said. "These two obnoxious security women came after me flashing their badges and saying that I stole the film." It was 5 p.m. and she was supposed to meet her family at the spinning tea cups in an hour. But security people would not let her go back into the store so the cashier could vouch for her story, she said. Instead, she was taken to a security office where personnel demanded receipts for the Disney pins and clothing she'd purchased on previous trips. "I just started crying," she said. She was turned over to Orange County Sheriffs deputies, handcuffed, booked, fingerprinted, strip- searched and thrown in a cell. Meanwhile, she said, her frantic family holed up in the Disney town hall information center, but nobody could tell them where she was. Vicki Prusnofsky, allowed to get $500 bail from an automatic teller machine, was reunited with her family at 1:45 a.m. She said she pleaded no contest to the charge because she lacked the money and time to take on Dis- NOW PAYING... 8.00% 8.00% 5-YEAR Subordinated Capital Investment Certificates 5-YEAR Subordinated Monthly Income Capital Investment Certificates 8.75% 8.75% 10-YEAR Subordinated Capital Investment Certificates These securities are Issued In amounts over $100 except the Monthly Income Certificate which la offered in minimums of $5,000 or more and additional increments of $1,000 or more. 10-YEAR Subordinated Monthly Investment Capital Investment Certificates Interest rates in effect March 10, 1996. All Interest rates are subject to change at any time prior to Issue. If you wish to receive a Prospectus, please cut along the dotted Une, complete and mall to Farmland. 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