Ex-Sparks fire chief facing drug charges demands job back

December 23, 2022 GMT

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The former Sparks fire chief accused of illegal possession and distribution of steroids says he never gave his resignation and wants to be reinstated.

Mark Lawson’s lawyers said in a letter sent to Sparks officials this week he should be returned to his role and placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of his criminal case.

They said Lawson maintains his innocence and threatened to file a civil lawsuit alleging he was “condemned, terminated and tried in the public” before criminal charges had been filed. But he is confident the criminal complaint will be dismissed.

“His name had been defamed before he had the opportunity to defend himself. This result is fundamentally unfair,” his attorneys wrote in the letter obtained by local news outlets.

Julie Duewel, a spokeswoman for the city, said officials do not comment on pending litigation.

The criminal complaint the Nevada Attorney General’s office filed Dec. 9 in Sparks Justice Court accuses Lawson of four felony counts—iincluding a conspiracy charge and possession with intent to sell a controlled substance.


Alcinia Whiters, an attorney general’s spokesperson, said in an email to The Associated Press last week the charges related to steroids.

Lawson is scheduled to be arraigned in Sparks Justice Court on Jan. 31.

The Sparks City Council approved Lawson’s hiring Nov. 28 to the $200,000-per-year job. But the Reno Gazette Journal reported that Sparks City Manager Neil Krutz said on Dec. 5 he informed fire department staff that serious criminal charges were about to be filed against the new chief.

“I met with Chief Lawson and asked for his resignation and he granted it,” Krutz told the newspaper.

Lawson came to Sparks after serving more than three decades in the fire service, most recently with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.