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January 16, 2015

Court Decree Gives Long-Delayed Pa. Museum 2 Years to Open

A consent decree signed Thursday by a Pennsylvania judge gives the embattled nonprofit behind the planned National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, Pa., two years to open the institution, The Morning Call of Allentown writes. The nonprofit behind the museum, which has been in the works for 18 years, will be required to merge with another organization or dissolve and turn the project over to another entity if the deadline is not met.

The order promulgated by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane also gives her office greater financial oversight on the effort to open the museum in a former Bethlehem Steel plant. Investigations by the attorney general and a Northampton County, Pa., grand jury into the museum's finances found no criminal wrongdoing but raised questions about how the organization spent nearly $16-million in donations and led to the departure of its longtime CEO, former Bethlehem Steel executive Stephen Donches.

Most of the contributions for construction and operations came from museum board members, and Mr. Donches engineered an anonymous $3-million gift in his final months with the project, the court filing notes. "Given its current financial position, the completion of [the] museum appears to be viable," Ms. Kane's office said in court documents.