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A JOB FOR THE COURTS

Innocent until proven guilty, that's our system of justice.

But does it apply to possible County Legislature sanctions against a legislator accused of directing drunken, racial vulgarities? In this case, we think so. Let's allow the courts to determine whether there's substantial evidence pointing toward guilt or innocence.

Of course, the accused, County Legislator Gregory B. Olma, claims he's innocent. It didn't happen. He didn't direct any racially insensitive comments toward anyone. It's the work of his political enemies. . . .

Frank B. Mesiah, president of the Buffalo chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, wants Olma's head on a platter. If he can't have that, he wants him to resign. Short of that, he wants the Legislature to publicly censure Olma.

The legislator should be censured -- at the least -- if the accusations are true. Getting to the bottom of what really happened will be the court's challenge.

Olma was arrested last week on Primary Night, after an alleged confrontation at a polling place on Fillmore Avenue. Police said he was intoxicated, and confronted two female elections inspectors in an obnoxious manner. The elections inspectors and some witnesses told police Olma used racist and sexist epithets -- including a highly offense word to describe blacks.

We won't speculate on whether Olma made the remarks. We weren't there. Instead, we have to let the legal process run its course. Suffice it to say, the last thing Buffalo needs are allegations of derogatory racial remarks swirling about a county legislator.

This is already a city struggling with a negative image and a history of racial tensions. Having county legislators in the middle of a racial firestorm is not going to help efforts to improve our state of affairs, whether one is talking about attracting tourism, business or new residents.

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