Florida City Sued Over a Mural Depicting Black Female Firefighter as White

The first Black female firefighter in a south Florida city has filed a lawsuit alleging defamation and negligence over a mural that depicted her as white.

Former Deputy Fire Chief of Boynton Beach City Latosha Clemons is seeking $30,000 in damages over the mural, alleging that it caused her emotional and financial distress and damaged her personal and professional reputation.

The complaint claims that the “false presentation” of Clemons “was done so with actual malice on the part of the city.”

Clemons became the city’s first Black female firefighter in 1996 and she served for 26 years until her retirement in 2020.

Clemons approved a photo of herself with two other female firefighters to be used in the mural, but when it was unveiled on June 3, 2020, “it did not reflect Clemons as the black member of the City Fire Department. Instead, it was altered and reflected her as as a white member,” the complaint alleged.

“Being depicted as white was not only a false presentation of Clemons, it was also a depiction which completely disrespected all that Clemons, the first female black firefighter for the city, had accomplished, her determination, focus, and hard work,” the complaint further alleged.

Shortly after the mural was unveiled, the city manager fired Public Arts Manager Debby Coles-Dobay, who told Palm Beach Post that she was “pressured” by the former fire chief to make the changes to the public artwork.

The city manager demoted the fire chief, who then resigned.

Clemons is requesting a trial by jury in the complaint.

The Boynton Beach City Commission will meet this week in a “closed-door session” to discuss the lawsuit, City Manager Lori LaVerriere told CNN on Oct. 10.


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