A Florida city’s first black female firefighter has filed a lawsuit against the municipality after a controversial mural was unveiled that depicted her with white skin.
Latosha Clemons’ lawsuit against Boynton Beach claims the pioneering firefighter deserves more than $100,000 after she suffered damages “including, but not limited to, loss of income, relocation expenses and additional living expenses as a result of relocating.”
The mural, which was unveiled last year before it was quickly yanked, caused mental and emotional harm and “subjected her to ridicule, contempt, disgrace and/or humiliation,” her attorney Arthur Schofield wrote in an amended complaint.
“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 black firefighter for the CITY had accomplished, her determination, focus and hard work,” a recent amended complaint said.
City officials are scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the lawsuit and figure out how to proceed, the Boynton Beach Post reported.
Clemons, who spent 26 years with the department before retiring last year, was to be included in a mural for one of the city’s fire stations. Her image was based on a photo of Clemons and two other female firefighters.
But when the city unveiled the mural in June 2020, Clemons and another former fire chief, who is also black, were portrayed as white. The debacle sparked swift backlash that led to the firing of the fire chief and another employee and removing the mural a day later.
The fired public art manager told the Post she was pressured by the fire chief and staff to make the change, with City Hall aware of the alteration, according to the Post.
City attorneys said in a court filing that the employees who changed the artwork acted “outside the scope of their employment,” the Post reported.
She told the newspaper at the time she was hurt, disappointed and outraged.
“It’s been my heart and soul and my lifeblood to serve in the community where I grew up … this is beyond disrespect and I basically want to know why it happened.”