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Florida city's first Black female firefighter sues over mural that depicted her as White

Oct. 12 (UPI) -- City attorneys and commissioners in a South Florida city will meet Tuesday to discuss a lawsuit filed by its first Black female firefighter over a controversial public mural -- on which she was depicted as being White.

The firefighter, Latosha Clemons, filed the suit against the city of Boyton Beach in April, which says the mural honoring her and others "reflected her as a White member of the city fire department."

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A second amended complaint filed last month says the case is being brought on Clemons' behalf "to redress the defamatory statement [the City of Boyton Beach] made regarding her race and/or its negligence in failing to properly oversee an approved use of the likeness of Clemons."

The suit seeks $100,000 and claims that Clemons, 48, has faced damage to her personal and professional reputations, loss of income and has been subjected to "ridicule, contempt, disgrace and/or humiliation" since the mural was revealed.

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City Manager Lori LaVerriere told CNN that the Boyton Beach City Commission will "meet in a closed-door session Tuesday to discuss the litigation."

The mural used a photograph of Clemons and two white female firefighters as a template but portrayed all three women as White and was removed a day after it was unveiled in June 2020.

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The lawsuit says that representing Clemons as White on the mural "completely disrespected" all that she had accomplished and "demonstrated disrespect" to the Black population of Boyton Beach, a city in Palm Beach County, Fla., located about 55 miles north of Miami.

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A 2019 project by the city's art commission to honor the fire department also depicted former city fire chief Glenn Joseph, a Black man, as White.

The city fired public arts manager Debby Coles-Dobay and fire chief Matthew Petty after the mural was unveiled.

Boyton City attorneys James Cherof and Gal Betesh said in a court filing that employees responsible for altering the mural "acted outside the scope of their employment and without the city's knowledge or consent."

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Clemons' attorneys have requested a jury trial and they will discuss a range of options during Tuesday's closed-door session, which include seeking a settlement to litigating the case in court.

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