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Security Chief at Deadly Travis Scott Concert Had Potential Conflicts of Interest, Insiders Say

Seyth Boardman was both Astroworld festivals’s safety and risk director and a manager at its security company. “Your loyalties are split,” says one industry vet

Travis Scott performs at Day 1 of the Astroworld Music Festival at NRG Park on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in Houston.

Amy Harris/Invision/AP

The safety and risk director hired to oversee the deadly Astroworld Festival and develop the show’s event operations plan was also a longtime employee of a separate security company contracted for the event, Rolling Stone has learned. The development highlights what some security experts tell Rolling Stone is a possible conflict of interest that could have impacted the planning and decision-making of the event.

Seyth Boardman co-founded live entertainment risk management company B3 Risk Solutions in 2010. B3 has worked notable music festivals including October 2021’s Rolling Loud festival in Miami, at which Travis Scott performed. With showrunners Live Nation and ScoreMore contracting B3 for the event, Boardman acted as Astroworld’s safety and risk director. Separately, Boardman is also a longtime manager at Contemporary Services Corporation, one of the largest event security companies in the country and the company contracted to run security for the concert.

As three event security sources tell Rolling Stone — including two former CSC employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity over fear of retribution — such a link brings a potential conflict of interest given that Boardman is on two separate payrolls and is expected to make decisions both for the broader festival and more specifically for CSC. These potential issues, they say, could include budgetary disputes, how to handle security staffing, or other scenarios where a festival organizer may push for one cause of action while the security company would want another solution.

“Managers at CSC get a base salary and get bonuses based on financial productivity for their region,” says one former CSC executive who’s now at another security company but is familiar with CSC’s payment structures. “[Earnings] at CSC are contingent on getting good financial terms at events. When you’re having to make a decision and go back to Live Nation and say what CSC can or can’t do, if you don’t know which hat you’re wearing, that’s where the problem is.” (Neither CSC nor Boardman responded to a query regarding how Boardman was compensated by CSC.)

“The primary thing that goes wrong in this scenario is that you can’t be loyal to two masters,” says another former CSC manager familiar with that company’s protocols.

A longtime security executive with experience in large-scale live events tells Rolling Stone an ideal safety director for a festival must be impartial and make unbiased decisions focused solely on an event’s safety and not influenced by the potential interest of any company with which they contract. Even if a safety director isn’t getting paid by one of the companies contracted to provide services for the event, as with Boardman and CSC, the security executive says an event’s safety director having a personal relationship with a company they contract to provide services at the event could affect their impartiality as well, whether the relationship is too friendly or too contentious.

“I wouldn’t hire someone [in that scenario]; the optics are terrible,” he says. “If I’m doing a festival and I’ve created a security plan and I want my plan to be as good as it could be, I’d want someone to look at it with a clear set of eyes who can identify things I may have overlooked. Your loyalties are split because you want to take care of the guy who’s paying you on both ends,” he says.

“You want someone without allegiances. In every industry, people make friends and that shouldn’t exclude someone from getting work,” he adds. “But even if they aren’t at the company anymore, what’s their relationship? Did they have a bad relationship so now he wants to nitpick? Is he too friendly and will let things slide?”

It’s unclear how much festival organizers knew of Boardman’s relationship with CSC when he was brought on in his role through B3. Boardman, B3 and CSC did not reply to requests for comment.

Live Nation, the promoter of the festival and the parent company to fellow show promoter ScoreMore, declined to comment on specific questions about Boardman or his relationship with the company but said in a statement that “security for a festival like this is always a collaborative effort between many parties including the operator, the venue, specialized contractors, and local authorities, in this case including Live Nation, Scoremore, NRG Park, CSC, B3, and the Houston Police and Fire Departments,” Live Nation said.

The company also noted that it hired significantly more security than initially intended for the event.

“As part of planning, Live Nation advocated for and funded many efforts to substantially enhance festival safety and security. In addition to NRG’s arrangement with CSC, Live Nation, Scoremore and B3 arranged for hundreds of additional security staff for Astroworld from other sources, on top of the hundreds of members of the Houston Police Department that were present.  These efforts more than doubled the amount of security personnel that the venue initially agreed to provide.”

On its face, a festival’s safety and risk director also working for a separate company hired to provide security for the event might seem uncontroversial at first glance given that both are focused on putting on a safe show. “I don’t think there’s a significant amount of difference on the front end; ideally those in both positions have the same responsibility of keeping people safe,” the first former CSC manager says.

The potential issues arise, according to the former CSC manager, when it comes to things like planning security budgets and personnel. “The difference is on the accountability side. When something like a staffing issue comes up, how can that be handled fairly?”

As for the Astroworld situation, the former CSC manager highlighted the reported lack of security personnel prior to the event. A Houston Chronicle investigative report revealed that following several weeks of concerns being raised about staffing numbers, Harris County allowed a last minute amendment to the festival’s contract to allow showrunners to hire more subcontracted security for the event. Among those brought in were AJ Melino & Associates, who, among others, two security workers are suing for the lack of training they claim they’d received. (A representative for Melino & Associates did not reply to a request for comment.)

The former manager recalls from his time at CSC that, if an event was short-staffed, it was commonplace to bring in more workers from CSC’s branches across other states rather than hire from other subcontracted companies. In-house security from CSC was often costlier but better ensured more experienced security workers, the manager said, while hiring subcontracted companies could often be cheaper but lower quality.

“I’ve brought in [CSC] security guards from out of town when we needed the help; historically that’s what we’d do,” he says.“Why didn’t CSC do that this time? It’s the largest security provider in the United States.”

CSC has faced intense scrutiny since last November’s disaster at Astroworld. The company is named in over 60 lawsuits in Harris County alongside other defendants including Travis Scott and festival organizers Live Nation and ScoreMore following a crowd rush that killed 10 people and injured hundreds of others.

More of the pressure and probing so far has been more pointed toward Live Nation, ScoreMore and Scott given their higher notoriety and clout in the live music business.

Several security workers said they were never trained for the festival, nor did they get the licensing they needed to work as security guards. Samuel and Jackson Bush, the two security guards suing AJ Melino & Associates, sustained injuries working the festival, the suit alleges. Jackson Bush had his security license, Texas’s private security database shows, but Samuel did not. As of Feb. 11, the same database shows that Boardman wasn’t licensed in Texas either.

Rolling Stone previously reported allegations of rushed hiring and training from CSC, with hired security guard Darius Williams saying the company gave him and several other security guards the answers to a test for their security licenses to work the event.

“It felt like they just needed bodies, like they were hiring anyone who passed a background test,” Williams said.

From Rolling Stone US