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After former deputy fire chief's face removed from mural, city leaders meet to discuss lawsuit

Attorney for Latosha Clemons calls city's actions 'a slap in the face'
Latosha Clemons face on Boynton Beach mural after it was restored
Posted at 4:36 PM, Oct 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-12 22:00:43-04

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — Boynton Beach leaders were meeting Tuesday to discuss a lawsuit filed on behalf of the city's first Black female deputy fire chief whose face on a mural was altered with that of a white one.

Latosha Clemons was one of two former Black firefighters whose faces were removed from a mural honoring the city's past.

Her lawyer, Arthur Schofield, said it was a hurtful moment for the Boynton Beach native who spent decades serving the city.

"Instead of what could have been a really nice tribute and memorial, right, it actually turned out to be a slap in the face," he told WPTV.

wptv-boynton-mural-black-faces-removed.jpg

Clemons is suing the city for damages in excess of $30,000, citing defamation and negligence.

Schofield said they are in the process of finding out how changes were made to the mural.

"Who knew of them before they were finally unveiled to the public?" he said. "Who could have stopped this?"

City Manager Lori LaVerriere removed Matthew Petty as fire chief and fired Debby Coles-Dobay, the city's public arts manager, in June 2020. Petty later resigned.

"The decision made to alter the artwork that was approved by the Public Arts Commission was wrong and disrespectful to our community," LaVerriere said in a statement last year. "Every employee in the city of Boynton Beach works for its community. As a leader, I have been very clear that I will not tolerate any employee to be disrespectful, in any shape or form, to any members of our community."

Clemons' face was restored in a new mural unveiled last November.

"We're going to end discovery by settling," Boynton Beach Mayor Steven Grant said Tuesday evening during a meeting to discuss the lawsuit. "We had a discussion at our closed-door session."

Mayor Grant said he will announce the decision to settle at the next city commission meeting on Oct. 19.

Boynton Beach City Hall in October 2021

Although the details of their discussion will remain private, Mayor Steven Grant released the following statement:

"I would want to repair the damage done to Deputy Chief Latosha Clemons, knowing there will always be a scar from the removal of her likeness from a city mural."

Any decisions made by the city would go back to open court.