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Retired deputy fire chief outraged over altered mural at Boynton Beach fire station

City fires public arts manager, Boynton Beach Fire Rescue chief

Mural altered to make former deputy fire chief appear white
Mural altered to make former deputy fire chief appear white

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – A former deputy fire chief in Boynton Beach is looking for answers after she was erased from a mural honoring the city's firefighters.

Both the image of her and the city's former fire chief were altered and she wants to know why.

Latosha Clemons said she is hurt and outraged over the incident after serving the community for 20 years.

Now, two city employees have lost their jobs because of it.

“Who made these changes and why did they make these changes?” her attorney asked Wednesday at a news conference.

Clemons is a retired deputy fire chief and is one of two prominent black firefighters to speak up about the incident.

Her face was removed from the public art display at Fire Station 1 in Boynton Beach and altered to look white.

Clemons said she was part of the team that designed the mural that she said was supposed to reflect diversity in the Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department.

Clemons said the final design was approved in November and after a soft reveal on June 2, her image and the image of a black former fire chief were erased.

“The sense of pride to have my picture reflect not only me, but my community, and for those young girls that would hope to model me one day,” Clemons said.

The mural has been removed and the Boynton Beach city manager has terminated the public arts manager, Debby Coles-Dobay, and the chief of the fire rescue department, Matthew Petty.

"The decision made to alter the artwork that was approved by the Public Arts Commission was wrong and disrespectful to our community," City Manager Lori LaVerriere said in a statement.

Coles-Dobay told The Palm Beach Post she “was pressured to make this artwork change by the fire chief and his staff, as the city well knows.”

Clemons isn’t seeking any legal action at this time. She and her attorney just want to know who made the changes and why.

The old mural has since been taken down with a new one set to go up soon.

About the Authors:

Emmy Award-winning newscaster Calvin Hughes co-anchors Local 10 News at 4, 5, 6 and 11 p.m.

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.