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Mary Ellen Klas, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Mary Ellen Klas

Mary Ellen Klas is capital bureau chief for the Miami Herald and co-bureau chief of the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau. She is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a graduate of the University of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn. Before she became bureau chief for the Herald in 2004, Mary Ellen was Tallahassee bureau chief for Florida Trend magazine and also served as a senior writer for the Palm Beach Post. She was bureau chief for the Palm Beach Post from 1990-94, after which she worked part time for 10 years while her daughters were young. She is married to John Kennedy, senior writer for the Palm Beach Post's Tallahassee bureau. They have two daughters.

Phone: 850-222-3095

Email: meklas@miamiherald.com

Twitter: @MaryEllenKlas

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  1. Florida was 'ill-prepared for a major hurricane, audit warned

    News

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before Florida entered the deadliest hurricane season in a decade, auditors at the state's Division of Emergency Management sent out a warning: the state was ill-prepared for a major disaster.

    A 23-page annual audit completed in December 2016 by the agency's inspector general detailed a lengthy list of deficiencies needed to prepare and respond to a hurricane. Among them:...

    Two National Guardsmen carry the belongings of WWII veteran Anthony Gentuso as he and his famly arrive at the Germain Arena that is serving as a shelter from the approaching Hurricane Irma on September 9. A December audit questions whether Florida is prepared for a major hurricane. [MARK WILSON | Getty Images]
  2. Report: Review shows Florida's utility watchdog has become a lapdog

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The watchdog over electricity rates for most Floridians has been captured by the utility industry and the result is costing consumers, according to a new report released Monday by the independent research organization Integrity Florida.

    The report analyzed dozens of decisions made by the Florida Public Service Commission in recent years and concluded that there is an "inordinate focus on what additional money a (utility) company wants, at the expense of attention to what the public interest needs."...

    Protesters in Tallahassee argue against cuts to energy efficiency goals. The Florida Public Service Commission approved the reductions.
  3. Florida's new utility regulator: Uber driver, donkey farmer, legislator

    Features

    TALLAHASSEE — The former state legislator and Uber driver Gov. Rick Scott named to regulate the state's utilities used his clout to block efforts to put a measure on the 2014 ballot to make it easier for businesses to install solar panels — the same month he partied with a Duke Energy lobbyist — and routinely used his political committee to finance daily meals and expenses.

    Ritch Workman, 44, the governor's surprise pick to replace Ronald A. Brisé on the Public Service Commission, has no utility experience, runs a hobby farm and most recently worked as a business developer for Keiser University. A Republican from Melbourne, Workman told a reporter in 2015 that he took a job driving for Uber during the legislative session because he had "idle hands and a big family and needed some extra income."...

    Former GOP state Rep. Ritch Workman was a surprise pick by the governor for the state’s Public Service Commission.
  4. Gov. Scott replaces head of emergency operations with political operative

    Gubernatorial

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday announced the abrupt departure of the head of the state Department of Emergency Management, Bryan Koon, and replaced him with Scott's former campaign aide and Republican Party of Florida operative Wes Maul, who has just over a year of emergency operations experience.

    Koon told the governor on Sept. 1 he would resign before the end of the hurricane season "to pursue an opportunity in the private sector,'' said McKinley Lewis, Scott's spokesman. The governor asked Koon to stay until Oct. 1 and he agreed. Maul, 29, will be promoted from chief of staff to interim director....

    Wes Maul becomes the interim director of Florida's Department of Emergency Management on Oct. 1. (Source: LinkedIn)
  5. Florida reverses decision to shield information from nursing home inspection reports

    Health

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida regulators decided Friday they will abandon the use of software that allowed them to heavily redact key words from nursing home inspection reports posted online, choosing instead to link to the more complete reports available on a federal site.

    "To avoid confusion for the nursing home reports our agency links to the federal site, www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare," said Mallory McManus, spokesperson for the Agency for Health Care Administration. "We no longer use the automated redaction tool."...

    Officials for the state Agency for Health Care Administration said Friday they will no longer use software that allowed them to heavily redact key words from nursing home inspection reports posted online. The agency has been under increased scrutiny since Sept. 13, when eight residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, pictured here, died after power was lost to an air-conditioning system during Hurricane Irma. Two more residents died this week. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
  6. Florida hides details in nursing home reports. Federal agencies don't.

    Medicine

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott widened his offensive Thursday against the Broward nursing home he blames for the deaths of 10 residents by setting up a tip line for information, but when it comes to access to the inspection reports of all nursing homes, the governor's administration has heavily censored what the public can see.

    HURRICANE IRMA: Read the latest coverage from the Tampa Bay Times....

    In the foreground is a document detailing the findings of a Feb. 2016 inspection at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills obtained from a federal agency, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Behind it is the state?€™s version of the same document, from the Agency for Health Care Administration, showing how it has been redacted before being released to the public. [Miami Herald]
  7. When elders are in peril, who do you call — 911 or Rick Scott's cell?

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Twelve hours after Irma blasted through South Florida, conditions at Larkin Community Hospital in Hollywood were miserable.

    The Broward psychiatric hospital was at full capacity with adults and adolescents who were mentally ill; the air conditioning wasn't working and they couldn't open windows. So what did the director of nursing at Larkin do to seek help? He wrote an email — to a Broward County commissioner, whose office was closed....

    Police surround the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which had no air conditioning after Hurricane Irma knocked out power, on Sept. 13 in Hollywood. So far, nine deaths have been blamed on the incedent. [John McCall | South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
  8. After Irma, nursing homes scramble to meet a hard deadline

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida's nursing homes and assisted-living facilities find themselves in an unfamiliar place this week — pushing back against Gov. Rick Scott's administration over new rules that require them to purchase generator capacity by Nov. 15 to keep their residents safe and comfortable in a power outage.

    With 55 days remaining before the state imposes $1,000-a-day fees, full panic mode has set in on an industry that is more accustomed to dealing with the gentle touch of state regulators and industry-friendly legislators....

    In this Sept. 13 photo, a woman is transported from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as patients are evacuated after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma in Hollywood. Nine have died and patients had to be moved out of the facility, many of them on stretchers or in wheelchairs. Authorities have launched a criminal investigation to figure out what went wrong and who, if anyone, was to blame. [Amy Beth Bennett | South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP]
  9. Irma's death toll in Florida rises to 42, but will grow

    News

    TALLAHASSEE —Deadly carbon monoxide fumes have killed 11 people in Florida as Hurricane Irma's death toll rose to 42 on Tuesday, state officials reported.

    The numbers are also preliminary, as there are several known deaths still not included on the official list, such as the eight elders who died after their nursing home in Broward lost air conditioning and the nine deaths reported in Monroe County. The Broward deaths have sparked a criminal investigation....

    A resident walks by a pile of debris caused by a storm surge during Hurricane Irma in Everglades City. The isolated Everglades City community of about 400 people suffered some of Florida's worst storm surges, up to 9 feet (2.7 meters), when Hurricane Irma slammed the region eight days ago, leaving the insides of homes a sodden mess and caking the streets with mud. The storm affected nearly every part of the state, and, so far, the death toll stands at 42. [AP Photo | Alan Diaz]
  10. After Hollywood nursing home horror, legislators want new laws

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — After a week in which the recovery from Hurricane Irma was more deadly for Florida's elderly than the storm, a handful of South Florida legislators drafted bills that would require nursing and retirement homes to maintain generators to cool their facilities during power outages.

    The legislation is meant to prevent the kind of tragedy that occurred Wednesday when eight frail, elderly people died in a Hollywood, Fla., nursing home-turned-hothouse after a temporary cooling system failed....

    On Thursday, Janice Connelly of Hollywood, sets up a makeshift memorial in memory of the senior citizens who died in the heat at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. [Carline Jean  | South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
  11. How a bill requiring Florida nursing homes to have backup AC died

    State Roundup

    In the aftermath of 2005's destructive Hurricane Wilma, Florida lawmakers approved laws to protect motorists at risk of getting stranded on the interstate, and residents of new highrises who can't climb stairs.

    Proposed at the same time: a bill that would have required some nursing homes to have generators to protect frail elders from the ravages of heat and dehydration.

    That bill died....

    Six Hollywood nursing home residents died Wednesday morning after falling ill in a building left without air conditioning after Irma blasted South Florida. [Emily Michot | Miami Herald]
  12. As more storms loom, Florida tries to make room for more water

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — With two new tropical depressions forming in the Atlantic and Gov. Rick Scott worried about another hurricane, Florida water managers worked on all fronts Thursday to lower water levels in Lake Okeechobee and surrounding canals to avoid the possibility of more flooding.

    On Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would "release as much water as practical" through the spillway at Port Mayaca Lock and Dam on the east side of the lake starting Friday, and begin releases from the lake to the Caloosahatchee Estuary "as soon as capacity exists downstream."...

    The dike overlooking Lake Okeechobee in Port Mayaca on Friday.  [Jason Henry | The New York Times]
  13. Storm damage? Get some basic info and apply now for FEMA assistance

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Homeowners, renters and business owners in 37 Florida counties may now apply for federal disaster assistance for uninsured and under-insured damages and losses resulting from Hurricane Irma but, be warned, the process takes time.

    Residents of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, DeSoto, Duval, Flagler, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter and Volusia counties were designated as of Wednesday to be eligible for federal aid under FEMA's Individual Assistance Program. Storm damage and losses from the hurricane and flooding must have occurred as a result of Hurricane Irma, beginning on Sept. 4....

    Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long speaks at FEMA headquarters in Washington, Tuesday to give an update on federal government support in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. [AP Photo | Andrew Harnik]
  14. Irma's new threat: Rising flood water in North, Central Florida

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Heavy rainfall over North and Central Florida from Hurricane Irma has swelled 23 rivers and creeks to beyond flood stage Wednesday, threatening homes along their banks and potentially forcing a massive re-routing of drivers along I-75, state officials warned.

    According to water level sensors maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey, the biggest threat appeared to be the Santa Fe River, which stretches 75 miles through the heart of the state in northern Florida. The river was recorded at 56,39 feet on Wednesday, according to the USGS gauging station, and is 13 feet above flood stage estimates of the National Weather Service....

    A sign the Pena family put in a tree at the entrance of the Hills of Santa Fe neighborhood, in Gainesvill on Tuesday. During Hurricane Irma water from the Meadowbrook Golf Course rushed over a hill behind the Pena's home and flooded the home with about six feet of water. After Hurricane Irma hit Gainesville, flooded homes and streets seem to be some of the biggest problems residents are dealing with. [Brad McClenny | The Gainsville Sun via AP]
  15. The Long Road Home: Millions of Floridians await return

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The millions of Floridians who are part of the largest evacuation in U.S. history are already itching to go home as Florida mobilizes a post-Irma mass recovery effort of troops, trucks, boats and volunteers from Key West to Jacksonville.

    Some evacuees fled hundreds of miles to escape the storm, and those crowds will soon come flooding back to the state.

    They're likely to be met with traffic delays, a fuel shortage, debris cleanup and possibly blocked access to their communities — which is why state and local officials have a singular message: Don't try to go home yet....

    A car rides in the shoulder to pass other cars in evacuation traffic on I-75  near Brooksville on Saturday [AP]