Light Rain64° FULL FORECASTLight Rain64° FULL FORECAST
Make us your home page
Instagram

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

link
  1. Legislators open session, this time faced with the legacy of 'cannibalizing' Florida's prisons

    Blog

    Cross City Correctional ceilingThe two DVDs were only minutes long but they depicted deplorable conditions in the state’s prison system: uninhabitable dorms, inmate-on-staff assaults and roofs that were so porous that prison staff rigged sheets of cardboard to serve as makeshift gutters....

  2. Chronic prison woes reveal Florida Legislature's priorities

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The two DVDs were only minutes long but they depicted deplorable conditions in the state's prison system: uninhabitable dorms, inmate-on-staff assaults and roofs that were so porous that prison staff rigged sheets of cardboard to serve as makeshift gutters.

    It was a vivid example of chronic underfunding and understaffing at the Florida Department of Corrections, and then-Secretary Michael Crews wanted to show them to legislators last year in his effort to make the case for more money....

  3. With Sheldon leaving, former FDLE head Jim York heads up lawsuit against Scott's disclosure

    Blog

    Jim YorkWith former Attorney General George Sheldon now named as the top welfare chief for the state of Illinois, he is being replaced as the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott alleging the governor failed to accurately and publicly disclose his finances....

  4. Legislators ready to set Florida's 2016 presidential primary for March 15

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida Republicans are ready to ditch the first-up status in the 2016 presidential preference primary and are drafting legislation to move the date back to the third Tuesday in March.

    The bill, to be offered by Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples, is expected to set March 15, 2016, as the new primary date, moving it into compliance with Democrat and Republican party rules. It would also guarantee that Florida has a full complement of delegates for its native sons, former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, should either emerge victorious from the GOP contest, Richter told the Times/Herald....

  5. Legislators drafting bill to move primary back to March 15

    Blog

    Florida Republicans are ready to ditch the first-up status in the 2016 presidential preference primary and are drafting legislation to move the date back to the third Tuesday in March.

    The bill, to be offered by Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples, is expected to set March 15, 2016, as the new primary date, moving it into compliance with Democrat and Republican party rules and guaranteeing that Florida has a full complement of delegates for its native sons former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, should one emerge from the GOP contest, Richter told the Herald/Times....

  6. Turf battles, tobacco wars and lobbyists

    Blog

    StarsThe lobbying team suited up to do battle this year to pass a single sentence into law to save the embattled tobacco industry millions of dollars is a virtual constellation of both new and old stars. All were selected for their unique ability to "enlighten" certain members. ...

  7. Legislators roll out bill to snuff damages for tobacco victims

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE The powerful cigarette industry re-ignited Florida's tobacco wars Wednesday with a one-sentence bill that would strip away the right of thousands of Florida victims from collecting millions in damages.

    The proposal by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, would retroactively apply a 1999 cap on punitive damages to "all civil actions in which judgment has not been entered." It is aimed at snubbing 4,500 smokers and their families who have sued cigarette makers but are still awaiting trial over claims that the industry deceived them about the dangerous and addictive properties of cigarettes....

  8. Bill sides with Big Tobacco to snuff out damage claims

    Blog

    C.R. Wilcox and familyThe powerful cigarette industry re-ignited Florida’s tobacco wars Wednesday with a one-sentence bill that would strip away the right of thousands of Florida victims from collecting millions in damages....

  9. FDLE wants 17 investigators to review prison deaths as agreement raises questions

    Blog

    The constant volume of suspicious inmate deaths in Florida’s prisons prompted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Tuesday to ask legislators for 17 additional investigators and $2.3 million.

    The money, which was not included in Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget, is needed to allow the agency to comply with a newly-updated agreement between FDLE and the Florida Department of Corrections, said Jennifer Cook Pritt, FDLE assistant commissioner....

  10. Prison reform legislation pushing ahead in Senate

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — A Senate committee gave preliminary approval Monday to a bill to create an independent commission to investigate wrongdoing in Florida's troubled prison system and increase sanctions against prison staffers accused of crimes.

    The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted unanimously for SB 2070, a wide-ranging attempt to reform the Florida Department of Corrections, which has been hit hard by reports of suspicious inmate deaths, allegations of cover-ups, and claims by whistleblowers that its chief inspector general has sabotaged investigations and ignored abuse of inmates....

  11. Bill floated to overhaul Florida's troubled prison system

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida's prison system would undergo a historic overhaul that would require the troubled agency to report to an independent oversight board with the power to investigate and crack down on abuse and wrongdoing, under a proposal filed Friday by a key senator. 

    Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, the chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, filed a 40-page amendment to SB 7020 that weakens the governor's authority over the Department of Corrections in the wake of mounting evidence that the agency can no longer police itself. ...

  12. Prison oversight board to get hearing in Senate committee Monday

    Blog

    Sen. Greg EversFlorida’s prison system would undergo a historic overhaul that would require the troubled agency to report to an independent oversight board with the power to investigate and crackdown on abuse and wrongdoing, under a proposal filed Friday by a key senator. 

    Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, the chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, filed a 40-page amendment to SB 7020 that weakens the governor’s authority over the Department of Corrections in the wake of mounting evidence that the agency can no longer police itself....

  13. Jones defends 'gag order' saying it was intended for fix inspector problems

    Blog

    Julie JonesFlorida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones defended her recently-imposed "confidentiality agreement" on prison inspectors Wednesday, telling a House committee the new rule was "more or less a good housekeeping piece" and "not intended as a gag order."

    She conceded that "everything that you have heard about the department is true,’’ referring to troubles within her inspectors’ general office, but said the agreement was intended to address the concerns and protect investigators.

    "We have problems,’’ Jones told the House Criminal Justice Committee. "We have good people. We have some bad people,’’ We have a dedicated core of inspector generals that are doing a tough job trying to weed out [wrongdoing.]"

    But she said that when she started as secretary in January, she discovered the agency did not require investigators to sign a confidentiality agreement like inspectors in other law enforcement agencies.

    The agreement, required to be signed by inspectors by Feb. 19, is intended "to make sure that anything the inspector general touches stays within the inspector general’s office and does not go outside that chain of command," she said....

  14. 'Orange is New Black' author urges senators to join competitors and reform prisons

    Blog

    Greg Evers and Piper KermanPiper Kerman, whose memoir “Orange in the New Black” inspired the successful NetFlix series, told the Senate Democratic caucus that the recent focus on Florida’s prisons is “very deserved” because the state “struggles to operate a system which is professional, which is humane and which is safe.”...

  15. Two corrections inspectors sue to block gag order

    Politics

    TALLAHASSEE — Faced with speaking up or losing their jobs, two inspectors with the Department of Corrections asked a circuit court in Leon County on Monday to stop the Department of Corrections from enforcing a new gag order they say is an attempt at intimidating them from discussing cases that are public record or reporting misconduct.

    The inspectors, Aubrey Land and John Ulm, were among several agency staff told by DOC Secretary Julie Jones that they had until Feb. 17 to sign three documents pledging not to discuss open or closed investigations — even if the investigations are a public record. Employees who failed to sign could be subject to "immediate termination."...