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A high-level University of Hawaii executive remains in her job — at the same pay — following the conclusion of a university investigation into whether she misrepresented herself as a certified public accountant.
University officials refuse to say why she’s still on the job or whether or not they concluded that she illegally misrepresented herself on her resume.
But evidence suggests that Karen Ehrhorn, who was hired as director of administrative services for the UH’s Institute for Astronomy in 2008, lied on her resume by identifying herself as a certified public accountant. Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, the nonprofit organization that Ehrhon worked for as chief financial officer before assuming her role at UH, also listed her as a CPA on its personnel page. (A copy of the resume she used to apply for the UH job appears below.)
The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs licensing database reveals that Ehrhorn’s CPA license, which was issued in 1974, expired in 1985. Civil Beat reviewed various licensing databases of the other 49 states and found no record of Ehrhorn having an active CPA license in any of them.
If Ehrhorn, whose position is funded by taxpayer dollars, did misrepresent herself as an accountant, that would be a violation of state law.
Reached by phone Friday, Ehrhorn said she had “no comment” and refused to say whether or not she had misrepresented herself on her resume.
“You’re so mixed up,” she said, before politely ending the call.
Ehrhorn started working at the Institute for Astronomy in 2008 at a salary that was $43,392 higher than her predecessor’s — which could be due, at least in part, to the accounting credential.
Civil Beat reported in mid-September that Brian Taylor, interim vice chancellor for research at UH, was leading an investigation into Ehrhorn. On Wednesday, UH spokeswoman Talia Ogliore confirmed that the university had completed its investigation and taken action but she declined to elaborate. Taylor couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
Ogliore did, however, confirm that Ehrhorn still earns $150,000 as the institute’s director of administrative services. (Civil Beat originally reported that she was making about $7,500 less this year, but that was according to May 2012 salary levels. The data has since been updated.)
State law prohibits the use of the title “certified public accountant” by anyone who does not have a current accounting license. CPA licensing entails rigorous requirements, including prerequisite college coursework, full-time professional auditing experience, successful completion of the national CPA exam and periodic additional courses every few years.
A University of Hawaii Professional Assembly database shows that Ehrhorn earns more than most other executives at the university. For example, she earns more than the director of internal audit, the chancellor of Kauai Community College and the associate athletic director at UH Manoa.
But, aside from the “CPA credential,” it is unclear why Ehrhorn’s salary is so much higher than that of her predecessor.
In 2001, Ehrhorn was at the center of an investigation into a $2.3 million contract that the nonprofit received from the Hawaii Department of Education to provide mental health services through “inexperienced” subcontractor Na Laukoa. Lawmakers, including Rep. Scott Saiki and then-state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, were investigating whether the DOE had illegally awarded the contract on the grounds that then-Superintendent Paul LeMahieu was a former voting member of the nonprofit’s board of directors.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletinquoted Saiki as saying that testimony by Ehrhorn was a “verification of our suspicions that the Department (of Education) went through great lengths to circumvent normal procedures to award contracts.”
Karen Ehrhorn’s resume, provided to Civil Beat by UH: