One of the highest-paid administrators at the University of Hawaii is being investigated for lying on her resume, UH officials confirmed Wednesday. If true, such a deception would be illegal.

Karen Ehrhorn makes about $142,500 as the director of administrative services for the university’s Institute for Astronomy. The salary appears to be higher than any employee in a similar executive role at UH.

Her job involves managing the institute’s finances and advising the director on budget matters.

When Ehrhorn was hired in 2008, she was paid $43,392 more than her predecessor, a sharp increase that may have been due in part to a credential she doesn’t have.

Ehrhorn’s resume, provided to Civil Beat by university officials, says that she’s a certified public accountant, or CPA. The resume even notes that she passed her CPA exam on her first sitting, which is quite a feat considering that less than 50 percent of applicants pass the exam on their first try these days.

In early 2008, just before Ehrhorn was hired, one Institute for Astronomy official who helped hire her explicitly cited Ehron’s supposed accounting license as a key qualification, internal email correspondence shows.

But searching for Ehrhorn in the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs licensing database reveals that her CPA license expired in 1985. She was originally issued the license in 1974.

That could mean Ehrhorn, whose position is funded by taxpayer dollars, is breaking the law.

Ehrhorn did not return calls or emails requesting a response on Wednesday.

Under state law it is illegal for someone to use the title “certified public accountant” unless he or she has a current CPA license. CPA licensing in Hawaii is a rigorous process with a range of requirements, including prerequisite college coursework, full-time professional auditing experience, successful completion of the national CPA exam and dozens of hours of continuing education every few years.

Brian Taylor, interim vice chancellor for research at UH, is leading the investigation into Ehrhorn, but he couldn’t be reached for comment.

UH Spokeswoman Talia Ogliore and others at the Institute for Astronomy said they couldn’t comment on the investigation, what prompted it, or what will happen if the allegations are found to be true because it’s ongoing.

Civil Beat reached out to the five search committee members — including astronomy institute researchers and administrators — who hired Ehrhorn in 2008. Two of the five responded to Civil Beat‘s request for comment.

Reached by phone, astronomer Shadia Habbal was outraged, raising her voice to say that the media shouldn’t cover a “totally false” accusation. Before abruptly hanging up, she insisted that Ehrhorn’s elevated salary was not the result of the credential listed on her resume.

Another committee member, Jeff Kuhn, also an astronomer, declined to comment via email, citing confidentiality obligations.

A University of Hawaii Professional Assembly database of 2012 executive and managerial salaries shows that Ehrhorn makes more than most other high-level employees at the university. The list of administrators who make less than she does includes the director of the university budget, the chancellor of Windward Community College and the university’s associate general counsel.

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