PHOENIX -- Even as he was fighting off accusations of racial discrimination, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio accepted an award from a Neo-Confederate group with ties to white supremacists.
Officials with the Arizona chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans gave Arpaio its J. Edgar Hoover Law & Order Award in October 2011. Word of the award had gone unreported until the on-line magazine, Salon.com, published a story on Thursday.
Officials with Arpaio's office told 3TV on Friday that the sheriff accepts a lot of awards and does not thoroughly vett everyone or every group wanting to give him one.
Lisa Allen, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's department, said there was nothing about the group that concerned them.
"Confederate doesn't send up any red flags," Allen said in a phone interview. "Now, if it was KKK or the Nazi Youth of America that would have set off red flags for us."
Allen described the two high ranking officials with the confederate organization as polite "older gentlemen."
Richard Montgomery and Curt Tipton gave Arpaio the award in October 2011, according the organization's on-line newsletter, "The Rebel Yell." The story includes a picture of the two men standing with Arpaio in the sheriff's downtown Phoenix office.
The civil rights group, Southern Poverty Law Center, has described Son of Confederate Veterans as an "extremist" organization that has been led by officials with links to Neo-Nazis.
Tipton, speaking on the phone, strongly disagreed with that description and called the people at the Southern Poverty Law Center a "bunch of con-men and scumbags."
Tipton then declined to speak any further because, "we're not going to get involved with this baloney, if anyone is racist it's them."
The Son of Confederate Veterans say they're dedicated to preserving southern culture. And members of the Arizona chapter travel the state and visit the burial sites of Confederate soldiers. On its website, the organization includes a disclaimer that they do not support racism or discrimination.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, officials with links to the Neo-Nazi movement overran the Confederate group about seven years ago and caused members to leave by the thousands.
At the time of the award, Arpaio was being accused of racial profiling because of his controversial immigration sweeps in the Valley. The U.S. Department of Justice released the findings of a three-year investigation in December 2011 that accused his office of "bias" and "discrimination." And he was also sued in civil court.