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Flags lowered to half-mast to mark 1 million Covid deaths and Peace Officers Memorial Day

Gov. John Carney followed the lead of President Joe Biden and ordered U.S. and state flags to fly at half-mast on state government buildings and facilities.

Business and other facilities often follow the state’s lead.

Flags will remain at half staff until sunset of May 16 in honor of the 1 million people who died from Covid-19 and to mark peace officers who died or were disabled on duty.

Frontier Airlines to end service on June 6

Frontier Airlines will discontinue service from Wilmington-New Castle Airport, effective on June 6.

The airline returned to the airport last year but never expanded its flight schedule beyond a few nonstop flights a week to Orlando, FL.

The airline vowed to be patient about the service after its abrupt departure several years ago but did little to promote the Orlando flights.

In the meantime, Frontier, like other airlines, has struggled with a shortage of pilots it adds new Airbus jets.

Frontier is also pursuing a merger with low-fare airline Spirit. Both Frontier and Spirit have beefed up their service from nearby Philadelphia International Airport, with American Airlines not restoring flights to pre-pandemic levels. The drive to PHL is often shorter for many Wilmington-area travelers than it is for residents of Philadelphia suburbs.

News and analysis: Rattay announces departure as public health director

State Public Health Director Dr. Karyn Rattay announced she will leave this post on June 30 after two years in the spotlight.

Rattay presided over the typically low-profile division during a lengthy and ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that still has 100 people in the hospital. The number of cases has declined sharply from winter 2022 highs.

She was a mainstay at the governor’s briefings on the virus and passed along pandemic trends and advice on masks, vaccinations and other matters.

Rattay has been listed as the nation’s longest-serving public health director. Departures and firings of public health directors were frequent during the Covid-19 crisis.

Delaware gets nearly $800,000 for settling Mallinckrodt Medicaid claims

Delaware has reached a multistate agreement with Mallinckrodt ARD, LLC to settle allegations that Mallinckrodt violated the Federal False Claims Act and the Delaware False Claims Act by underpaying Medicaid rebates.

“Medicaid is a precious resource, and fraud that wastes that resource harms both taxpayers and Medicaid recipients,” said Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “We will continue to hold companies accountable and ensure the integrity of Delaware’s Medicaid program.”

This action returns nearly $800,000 to Delaware, including restitution toward the state’s share of Medicaid funding. Mallinckrodt, which is a subsidiary of an Irish pharmaceutical company, ells, and markets pharmaceutical products throughout the United States. The total value of the nationwide settlement is nearly $234 million to resolve various civil fraud allegations.

Travel notes: Amtrak schedule, Baltimore Washington parking, Southwest upgrades

The Acela assembly site in New York state. Photo courtesy of Amtrak

Amtrak unveiled its summer schedule featuring the most Acela frequencies since the onset of the pandemic and Northeast Regional departures nearing 80% of pre-pandemic service levels. 

The new summer schedule also includes restoring four long-distance trains to daily service.

Amtrak, which employs about 1,000  in Delaware, added more than 1,500 new employees this year in gearing up for the expansion.

Delaware extends plug-in hybrid, electric vehicle rebates

DNREC photo.

The  Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced extending the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program through the end of 2022.

“As new and existing manufacturers introduce more electric vehicles to their lineups, more consumers are making the switch,” said Gov John Carney. “Our Clean Transportation Incentive Program is helping to make the transition more affordable for more Delawareans.”

The program has been in place since July 2015. In the first round of funding, which lasted until Oct. 31, 2016, the program paid out 292 rebates. By comparison, the program has paid out 267 rebates in the first four months of this year.

In total, almost 2,500 rebates have been issued since the program began. The current program was set to expire on June 30.

Area museum discount card returns

The Brandywine Treasure Trail Passport has returning travelers can purchase a digital version on the Passport webpage or get a print version, both on sale at all participating attractions.

An individual Passport costs $49 and the family Passport costs $99, covering two adults and up to three kids ages 17 and under.

The passes can be used any time over the course of Passport Season, from May 27 through October 31. Visitors can visit each attraction one time at their own pace over the course of the five months.

The passport can be used at:

Brandywine River Museum of Art, Chadds Ford, PA
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington.
Delaware History Museum, Wilmington.
Delaware Museum of Nature and Science, Greenville.
Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington area.
Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA.
Nemours Estate, north Wilmington
.- Read House and Gardens, Historic New Castle.
Rockwood Park and Museum, north Wilmington.
.- Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, Greenville/Winterthur.

For more information on the attractions included in the passport and to start planning, log on www.VisitWilmingtonDE.com.

Bill that ends penalties for small amounts of marijuana heads to governor’s desk

On Thursday, the Delaware Senate passed (13-7) HB 371 — a bill that would legalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults 21 and older. The bill now heads to Gov. Carney’s desk, where its fate is uncertain.

HB 371 does not legalize or set up a regulatory framework for adult-use cannabis sales. Those provisions are addressed in separate legislation, HB 372, which is still awaiting action in the House.

The bills were separated after HB 372 failed to get the required three-fifths majority required for passage. HB 371 requires a simple majority. All Senate Republicans voted no.

Wilmington woman faces charges of failing to pay $300,000 in employment taxes

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Scranton, announced that Nari T. Lam, 29, of Wilmington, was charged will failing to pay employment taxes

According to United States Attorney John C. Gurganus, from 2016 through 2020, Lam, the owner of Pennsylvania-based company Penns Independent Staffing, failed to pay about $300,000 in employment taxes to the Internal Revenue Service.

Another individual, Mark Holmes, 66, of Hughes Springs, Texas, was previously charged.

Holmes pleaded guilty to accepting, as the general manager of a Pennsylvania food services company, approximately $400,000 in bribes and kickbacks from two temporary staffing companies, one of which was Penns Independent Staffing, in exchange for hiring their employees. The two temporary staffing companies, in turn, received approximately $7.8 million from Holmes’s employer.

Delaware in middle of pack in electric vehicle charging stations

Electric vehicle. State of Delaware photo

Delaware is not a leader in the ranking of electric vehicle charging stations.

Financial comparison site Forbes Advisor analyzed data from the U.S Department of Energy and all 50 states to establish how many electric charging stations there are in each state per registered electric vehicle in the state.

North Dakota is the most accessible state in America to charge an electric car since it has only a small number of electric vehicles.

A small state standout is Rhode Island, which ranks third, even though it has about 1,500 electric vehicles. North Dakota only has 220.

Food & Drink – Maiale closes cafe, keeps food truck; Azteca’s birria; City Restaurant Week; Rosenfeld’s, Grain add locations

Birria at Fiesta Azteca

Owner Billy Rawstrom and Susan Rawstrom announced via Facebook and website that the restaurant side of Maiale on Lancaster Avenue just outside Wilmington has closed.

“After 13 successful years of business, we have decided that the time has come to close the restaurant side of Maiale. The last two years have been difficult due to Covid, inflation, and lack of employees. We thought it was in our best interest to close the restaurant and focus on continuing the food truck and farmer’s market circuit,” Rawstrom wrote.

A schedule of food truck and farmers’ market stops is on the way.

Attorney General seeks federal-state probe of Delaware State lacrosse team’s traffic stop

Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings is asking the officials in Georgia and at the federal level to investigate a traffic stop in Georgia that led to the Delaware State University lacrosse team seeing their luggage searched.

A bus carrying the team was stopped over a traffic violation, leading a group of Liberty County sheriff’s deputies to search belongings in the bus cargo area.

William Bowman, the Black sheriff of that county said the predominately Black team was not racially profiled by white deputies. Deputies also used a drug-sniffing dog in the search and stated that marijuana is illegal in Georgia. That is also true in Delaware.

Poultry industry on heightened alert after vultures in Maryland die from avian flu

The Delaware Department of Agriculture is warning poultry growers and those with backyard birds to continue to take steps to protect their flocks after sick vultures were found dead or ill with avian flu in Harford County, MD.

Harford is at the northern edge of the Delmarva-Upper Shore poultry-growing area. 

It marked the region’s first confirmation of HPAI in wild birds since February 17, when the virus was found through wildlife surveillance in Kent County, DE.

Marydel residents and owners of Maryland tree service plead guilty to tax charges

A Marydel husband and wife, who owned a tree service business in Maryland,  pleaded guilty this week in Delaware  U.S. District Court to income and employment tax charges.

According to court documents, Donald Gilliss, 48, and Amy Gilliss, 41, of Marydel in Kent County, DE,  owned and operated Arundel Tree Service, a business offering tree care and removal services in Anne Arundel County and the surrounding area in Maryland.

Green hydrogen start-up Versogen gets $14.5 million in Series A funding

Wilmington-area green energy startup Versogen has secured a $14.5 million Series A funding round led by Korea-based  Doosan Corporation and its affiliate HyAxiom, Inc.

Other investors include Wilmington-based Chemours Company, TechEnergy Ventures, Wenstone H2Tech LLC, TOP Ventures America LLC, a CVC arm of Thai Oil Public Company Limited, DSC Investment, and CN Innovations Investments Limited. The new funding will support the development and prototype of Versogen’s electrolyzer stacks and expand the production of their anion exchange membranes (AEM).

Governor signs paid family leave bill that goes into effect in Jan. 2025

State Sen. Sarah McBride speaks at the signing ceremony.

Gov. John Carney on Tuesday signed Senate Substitute 2 for Senate Bill 1 into law.

The legislation creates a statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program, offering eligible Delaware workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave to address a worker’s own serious health condition; to care for a family member with a serious health condition; to care for a new child; or to address the impact of a family member’s military deployment.

The measure will go into effect in Delaware on January 1, 2025.

Analysis – House passes bill that nixes 5-mile limit for Newark Charter

A bill eliminating the controversial five-mile boundary for Newark Charter and other schools passed the Delaware House.

The vote was 22-16. Republicans and some moderate Democrats voted to keep the boundary, with progressive Democrats pushing for a change.

The boundary has long drawn fire from parents in Bear-Glasgow and other areas, who say the five miles exclude more diverse communities outside the line. Also, the radius is not a true circle since the charter school’s location is near the Maryland border and excludes lower-income students on the other side of the line.

Any Delaware student can apply for Newark Charter, but a long-waiting list makes getting in a longshot, even for those within the five-mile area. Siblings of students getting preference also limit openings. A lottery is held for the remaining slots.

The school has also been criticized for allegedly “skimming the cream” of top students in the Christina School District and becoming, in essence, a taxpayer-funded private school that now offers grades K through 12. Supporters defend the boundary, claiming the racial makeup reflects the composition of the surrounding community and is not an example of what critics see as de facto segregation.

The school does enjoy strong community support and is viewed as a drawing card for those thinking about relocating in and around Newark.

Marcom notes: Ad campaigns for GOLO, Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware

Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware is taking out advertisements urging Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP to pull back their claims of diversity and inclusion.

The group has been in a long-running dispute with the law firm over the purchase of TransPerfect and fees charged to a custodian appointed by Chancery Court to handle the sale. Citizens was formed by TransPerfect employees and others.

Citizens has been running advertisements calling for more diversity in the state’s legal system, both inside and outside the state.

A Dover Post ad claims that out of Skadden’s 114 partners, just two are African American, and out of 11 partners in Skadden’s Wilmington office, none are African-American.

The time is right for an inspector general

Hello everyone,

Legislation calling for the office of Inspector General in Delaware is back.

The bill, sponsored by John Kowalko, D-Newark, has co-sponsors from both parties. One of those rare issues where progressives like Kowlko and conservative Republicans find room for agreement.

The idea of an inspector general is nothing new, given the level of corruption in state and local government in Delaware.

One argument in favor of the office is the potential for conflict within the state Department of Justice, which represents state officials in legal matters. Still, it plays the role of prosecutor and investigator.

One would hope the bill gets serious consideration in light of the State Auditor’s Office situation.

Tony Luke’s owners plead guilty to payroll tax scheme

Pixabay photo

Tony Luke’s owners Anthony Lucidonio, Sr., 84, of Philadelphia, and his son Nicholas Lucidonio, 56, of New Jersey, pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges on Monday in U.S. District Court in Philadelpia.

The father (Tony Luke, Sr.) and son, who were indicted in July 2020, are owners of Tony Luke’s, a well-known cheesesteak stand in south Philadelphia. In pleading guilty, the defendants admitted to participating in a scheme to evade payroll taxes between 2006 and 2016.

Not charged was family member Tony Luke Jr. who has been the public face of the business.