As the Fire Board Turns

A Treatment

DISSOLVE TO: fire commissioners, Mel, and other staff strolling into the conference room, shaking hands, and joking around. (When you actually shoot this scene, Mr. B., you could subtly make it clear that these political bush leaguers really annoy one another.) During the meeting Marcia recommends Ana's termination. But the board defers a decision and adopts a new organizational structure that allows each commissioner an administrative assistant. In the past they shared the help. The board assigns Ana to Evaristo Marina. Then maybe we CUT TO: a flashback into Marina's past. We learn a little more about him. His military academy closed after financial troubles, a state reprimand for poor dormitory conditions, and a rape scandal involving a male cadet and a five-year-old female student. (Hey, bro', this kind of thing happens here, believe you me.) And now that we've attracted the lowest common denominators of couch-potato land, perhaps a few more advertisements would be prudent.

When we return Ana is working for Marina. She and Marcia have settled into an uneasy modus vivendi, if you will. But Ana smells a conspiracy: She believes the fire board reorganization will result in her termination. Marina asks her to work on his Sweetwater mayoral campaign, which would violate the principles of her religion. (Marina will later deny it.) I think now might be a good time to work in some of those action scenes with raging fires.

Sure enough, Marina types a note to Ana on fire board letterhead:

"JUANA"
"JUANA"

March 16, 1999

Dear Ms. Ballester:

This letter is to advise you that your services as my assistant are no longer required. Effective immediately, you will be placed on administrative leave....

Well, I'm sure that by now you will agree it is time for us to start making some sense of all this madness. Who better to do it than canny, cunning, and crafty investigator CARMEN DIEGUEZ, a specialist in the Miami-Dade Office of Fair Employment Practices. (These county investigations can be unbelievable snoozes, so let's see if we can get Demi to play the Carmen role.) One by one Carmen meets with our captivating cast.

First Carmen interviews Marcia: "I believe that Ana may have been jealous of my friendship with her brother. I know that she and her brother had communications problems." Marcia adds that Ana is intelligent but uses her skills to create turmoil and strife. Finally, and this is where the edgy orchestral music pipes up, Marcia admits that she called Ana "a conniving liar." She also acknowledges once terming Ana's religion "stupid."

Enter Mel. "My theory is that Ballester is not a good worker," he offers confidently. "She tries to get away with not doing her work. She is habitually late or absent, even if and when she is caught or scolded. She is a scam artist.... Her scam is accusing everyone of picking on her."

Finally the scene we've all awaited. The Madonna character, whose tip initiated this crazy flick, walks into Carmen's office. ("So you are MARILYN RODRIGUEZ?" Carmen inquires.) Then in that sultry and sensational voice, Marilyn speaks. "This relationship between Marcia and Eddy was quite unusual," begins the $40,000 per year secretary. "I had never seen such a thing: the constant calling, constant paging, fifteen to twenty calls a day.... If she ever got mad with Eddy she would stomp around and close doors loudly, fuming. If he would not call her back, she'd pull on her hair. And the comments to Ana and the group: 'I can't live without your brother. I don't know what I'll do if I don't have him in my life.' She had just had a baby and the baby fell out of the carriage. She'd say, 'I have to call Eddy. I don't call my pediatrician; Eddy's my doctor.' She'd say to Ana, 'I love your brother so much, no one understands how much I love him.' It's an obsession...."

Marilyn continues: "Once we were ... all talking women things, about sensuality. I was talking about myself in relationship to sensuality. [Marcia] started to cry. 'I can't be like that with my husband,' she said. 'My heart is somewhere else.'"

Marilyn speaks on: "Commissioner Marina came to me after a closed-door meeting with Mel and Marcia.... He said, 'I had a meeting and they want to get rid of Ana.'" Finally Marilyn makes a stunning claim about Marcia, confirming our worst fears: Marcia requested that Ana's time sheets be falsified to "make Ana look bad."

Marilyn leaves and Carmen begins to type her report. She types and types. Twenty-four pages. Finally she comes to these conclusions about Ana's three complaints and Marcia's actions:

Regarding religious discrimination: "Most of the comments, if not all ... are not 100 percent derogatory, on face value.... Other comments, albeit critical, perhaps uncalled for and inappropriate in the workplace, do not appear to constitute discrimination on the basis of religion."

Regarding sexual harassment: "Said comments ... are not of a sexual nature."

Regarding retaliation: "Without merit."

Regarding Marcia: "Should learn more about the county's personnel processes and procedures ... exercise more control in how she expresses herself around subordinates, and refrain from using inappropriate language in the workplace.... [Should] maintain a congenial and productive work atmosphere."

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