Conflict of interest question: Should a county attorney sing bluegrass?

May 11, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

Elizabeth B. Entwisle has played some tough gigs before, but no one has suggested until now that it might be a conflict of interest for her to sing in her husband's band and get paid for it.

The County Council will decide tonight in a special legislative session whether to give Ms. Entwisle, a county attorney, a waiver to do just that.

The Recreation and Parks Department wants the Satyr Hill band, led by Ms. Entwisle's husband Jude Restivo, to be the lead act Sunday afternoon at its Wine in the Woods festival.

The question before the council is whether to give Ms. Entwisle, a county attorney who advises the parks department on legal matters, a waiver that would allow her to share in the band's $450 fee.

When Ms. Entwisle sought an opinion from the county Ethics Commission, the commission demurred. It suggested she bring it to the council and let the council vote on it.

The commission ruled it was not a conflict of interest for the parks department to hire the band since the department has been using the band for years.

Ms. Entwisle and the band leader were married in 1991.

Ms. Entwisle has not sung with the band for a year or more and her husband was looking to the wine festival as an excuse for having her rejoin the band.

"I was feeling pretty burned out," Ms. Entwisle said. "This seemed like a good time to think about getting back in."

It was her legal work for the county that led Ms. Entwisle to drop out of the band to begin with.

Although she has loved folk singing ever since she bought a guitar in fifth grade after hearing a Joan Baez album, Ms. Entwisle chose government work over the band. "There's an old saying -- 'Don't quit your day job because you can't depend on the music,' " she says.

Only in her case, her day job meant attending many long night meetings. In addition to providing counsel for the Recreation and Parks Department, she also advises the Department of Public Works and the Department of Planning and Zoning on land use issues, and serves as counsel to the county Personnel Board and the county Human Rights Commission.

By the time the weekend rolled around, she did not feel like giving another night to anything else -- including the band, she said.

If were not for her love of bluegrass and her concern for the environment, Ms. Entwisle might never have come to the Washington area. After graduating from Wellesley, the Pittsburgh native returned home to earn a law degree at the University of Pittsburgh.

After earning her law degree, she took a job in Washington as a law clerk for the Environmental Law Institute.

The other attraction was music.

"D.C. at that time was the hub for acoustic music," she says. "The whole Washington-Baltimore corridor was bluegrass -- Appalachian music the people brought with them from West Virginia when they took jobs here" during the World War II.

"It is a driving, straight-ahead folk music with overdrive," she says, "and is more into country. I love singing country ballads."

Ms. Entwisle also plays bass in the band -- a skill she said she had "to learn on the job because bass players are hard to find."

Ms. Entwisle is the antithesis of the aggressive, power-driven stereotype of a lawyer. In her case, it is not the law, but the bluegrass music that brings out her aggressions, she says with a laugh.

The council is expected to approve her request for a waiver and allow her to share her musical aggressions with the public this weekend.

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