Monday, March 10, 2014
Donches Down But Not Out at Steel Museum
Donches salary is still higher than the $70,000 compensation package paid to Charlene Donchez Mowers, who administers Historic Bethlehem Partnership. It is approximately the same as paid to Executive Director Mike Stershic at Discover Lehigh Valley, whose annual revenue tops $3 million.
Donches is being replaced by L. Charles Marcon, who will serve as Interim President and CEO as the Board of Directors ponders the Museum's future.
In late January, a Northampton County Grand Jury recommended big changes at the Steel Museum, including the replacement of Donches. At the time, they noted that Donches' compensation was approximately twice what is paid to the executive directors of similarly situated nonprofits. In a scathing criticism, they called the Museum a "resting home" for "soon to be unemployed officials of the [Bethlehem Steel]Corporation who continued to benefit from high paying salaries, retirement benefits, and other benefits at the expense of the organization."
The Grand Jury also called for changes on the on the Museum Board. They questioned the conflicts of interest policy, especially since board member Lee Butz managed to get nearly $1 million in business from the Museum after being named a director. Marcon came under fire, too, for bidding on construction work at the Museum while serving as a director.
The state Attorney General's Charitable Trusts Section has also been asked to investigate whether to dissolve the museum.
Over the years, this Museum has received public funding, including a $1.4 million state RCAP grant, as well as the donation of artifacts from the Smithsonian. Ironically, there are no Bethlehem Steel exhibits.
Initially, the Steel Museum denied any wrongdoing at all, choosing to blame everything on a "Monday morning quarterbacking" District Attorney.
But Directors belatedly recognize that Morganelli's passing game might be pretty good. In addition to cutting Donches' pay in half, the Board intends to seek partnerships with other groups. Possibilities for this could include Northampton Community College and the Historic Bethlehem Partnership.
The quarterback, John Morganelli, is encouraged.
"I believe that the demotion of Mr. Donches is recognition and validation of the recommendations and findings made by the Grand Jury. It is recognition that this organization has been mismanaged, wasting millions of dollars of donated money and public funds. I believe that but for the work of the Grand Jury, Mr. Donches and this board would have continued on their failed path and the museum project would have ultimately crashed and never brought to completion. Thanks to the bright spotlight that the grand jury cast on them, they have now been jump started to get realistic about the scope of the project and their wasteful spending. Hopefully, after the Attorney General weighs in in whatever manner they so choose if any, this project will be brought to a successful conclusion."