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January 02, 2015

Controversial Head of Stalled Pa. Museum Project Forced Out

The longtime chief executive of the planned National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, Pa., left the organization Wednesday under an agreement with the state attorney general's office, which has been investigating the project's finances, reports The Morning Call of Allentown and the Lehigh Valley Express-Times. The not-yet-finalized pact will find no criminal wrongdoing and allow the museum to forge ahead with state grant money provided that Stephen Donches departs and the facility opens by the end of 2016.

The museum chronicling U.S. industrial history has been in the works since the 1990s. Mr. Donches, a former Bethlehem Steel executive, served as CEO from 2002 until last May, when he stepped down to an untitled position in the wake of a grand jury report blasting his leadership of the project and questioning how the museum spent $17-million in donations and grant funds.

Construction work on the museum in a former Bethlehem Steel facility began last month with the help of an anonymous $3-million gift. L. Charles Marcon, the museum's interim CEO, said the grand jury unfairly tarred Mr. Donches, but that project officials "realized early on [in talks with the attorney general's office] that Steve's resignation was going to be non-negotiable."