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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. Did the Florida Legislature heed the warning in this 1997 sexual harassment case?

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — There has been only one known legal case against the Florida Legislature for a sexual harassment claim, but that 20-year-old lawsuit could serve as a template if the Senate decides that allegations against Sen. Jack Latvala are legitimate.

    Since 1992, Florida taxpayers have paid $11 million in 310 sexual harassment settlements —from nurses exposed to a hostile work environment in male prisons to overt sexual advances from state supervisors — but only one of those payments has been in a case directly involving the Legislature, according to data compiled by the Florida Department of Financial Services....

    Linda Phelps, an assistant purchasing administrator for the now-defunct Joint Legislative Management Committee, sued the state after complaining of unwanted sexual advances by her boss, Bobby Hinson. She and her lawyers were awarded $165,000 in 1997, one of the costliest settlements for harassment in the state over the past 30 years. [Photo courtesy of Phelps]
  2. Latvala's accusers remain anonymous

    State Roundup

    As women across the country come forward and publicly call out sexual harassers, accusers in the Sunshine State have remained in the shade.

    At least six women have alleged that they are victims of sexual harassment by state Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who stepped down as head of the budget committee until a Senate investigation is complete. The women agreed to talk to Politico Florida but refused to be identified....

    Stephen Bittel, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party.
  3. Code of silence is breaking on Tallahassee's sex secrets

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — For decades, sex has been a tool and a toy for the politically powerful in the male-dominated world of politics in Florida's capital. Now it's a weapon.

    Allegations of sexual assault, harassment and infidelity among the state's legislators flew like shrapnel from a bomb blast in recent weeks, destroying much of the trust left in a Republican-controlled Legislature and replacing it with suspicion and finger pointing....

    Sen. Jack Latvala says he’ll disprove women’s accusations.
  4. Code of silence is breaking on Tallahassee's sex secrets

    News

    For decades, sex has been a tool and a toy for the politically powerful in the male-dominated world of politics in Florida's capital. Now it's a weapon.

    Allegations of sexual assault, harassment and infidelity among the state's legislators flew like shrapnel from a bomb blast in recent weeks, destroying much of the trust left in a Republican-controlled Legislature and replacing it with suspicion and finger pointing....

    Florida Capitol looking east, Tallahassee.  FOR FILE.
  5. Jack Latvala on sexual harassment allegations: "I'm going to clear my name"

    Politics

    Florida Senate President Joe Negron ordered an internal investigation Friday of sexual harassment allegations made by six unnamed women who accused Sen. Jack Latvala of groping and inappropriate touching.

    "There has been a news report alleging that members of the Senate professional staff and visitors to the Senate offices were sexually assaulted,'' Negron said in a statement. "These allegations are atrocious and horrendous. As Senate President, my first priority is the safety of our staff and visitors. I have ordered an immediate investigation of these allegations, which will be led by our Senate general counsel, Dawn Roberts."...

    Senate budget chairman Senator Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, talks about budget negotiations, Thursday, 5/4/17, in Tallahassee.
  6. Who gets to appoint 3 new Florida justices, Rick Scott or the next governor?

    Courts

    TALLAHASSEE — The traditionally staid justices in black robes on Florida's Supreme Court got emotional and animated Wednesday as lawyers asked them to weigh in on something more intimate than what usually comes before them: their jobs.

    The issue before the court was whether Gov. Rick Scott has the authority to appoint three new justices to replace three current justices whose terms expire on the same day he leaves office in January 2019. Those appointment could tip the 4-3 balance of the court from progressive to conservative. ...

  7. Someone's spying on Florida legislators. Tallahassee is on edge.

    Politics

    For at least three days in the final week of the 2017 legislative session, a covert surveillance camera recorded the comings and goings of legislators and lobbyists living on the sixth floor of the Tennyson condominium near the Capitol.

    Weeks later, in a dark parking lot of an Italian restaurant in Tallahassee, Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater, a Republican candidate for governor, was also being spied upon. Grainy photos show him standing and planting a kiss on the cheek, then the mouth, of a female lobbyist on the last night of the Legislature's special session....

  8. Florida Senate's top Democrat resigns after admitting affair with lobbyist

    News

    TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Senate's top Democratic leader, Jeff Clemens, resigned Friday after admitting to having an affair with a lobbyist during the last legislative session, saying that repairing his personal life was impossible in while serving in the high profile role.

    "Effective today, I am resigning from the Florida Senate," Clemens said in a statement Friday. "I have made mistakes I [am] ashamed of, and for the past six months I have been focused on becoming a better person. But it is clear to me that task is impossible to finish while in elected office. The process won't allow it, and the people of Florida deserve better. All women deserve respect, and by my actions, I feel I have failed that standard. I have to do better."...

    Jeff Clemens, the Florida Senate's top Democratic leader, resigned Friday after admitting to having an affair with a lobbyist during the last legislative session.
  9. 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]
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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....

    Bryan Koon
  13. 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]
  14. 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]
  15. 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]