HONOLULU — State auditors are investigating a $20 million renovation project at a Waikiki hotel over claims that it is using unlicensed contractors and workers who are in the country illegally.

The renovation at the Maile Sky Court Hotel has been underway for several months. Linda Chu Takayama, director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, said the department is working with the federal government to determine whether the project contractor has provided all required worker benefits and protections.

“We are trying to make sure that there is a level playing field for all of the other law-abiding corporations and workers,” Takayama said. “We’re trying to make sure that the state isn’t left holding the bag for the care of some of these workers if something goes wrong.”

Officials also have confirmed they are looking into reports that some of those working on the project are in the country illegally, Hawaii News Now reported (http://bit.ly/2bSwnxf).

The state labor department typically launches these types of investigations based on a “complaint or an inquiry or a tip of some kind,” according to Takayama.

Donald Selby, the owner of Selby Construction, maintained that the company is operating in line with state law.

“Before we start a project, we make sure we’re 100 percent in compliance with all state laws,” said owner Donald Selby. “Everybody on this project is an American and they come from all over America.”

Selby said his company has completed similar projects in several other states and has never been subject to fines or found to have violated any laws.

“It’s not unusual to get a complaint, and it’s not unusual to get an investigation. What would be unusual for me would be if anything was found to be illegal or not in compliance,” he said.

Work on the nearly 600-unit hotel, which is reopening as a Holiday Inn Express, is expected to be complete sometime next year.

Information from: KGMB-TV, http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/

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