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Former Olathe school board candidate removed from board meeting after accusing opponent of buying seat

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GilmoreBOEMeeting1/13/22

Jennifer Gilmore, who lost in a race for the Olathe school board, accused her former opponent Julie Steele of buying her board seat. Gilmore also called Steele’s father, former Olathe City Council member Jim Randall, a liar. 

Gilmore made these statements Thursday during the public comment portion of the January Olathe school board meeting. Earlier in the meeting, Steele and two other newcomers — Brian Connell and Robert Kuhn — were sworn in for their first terms on the board. 

“I didn't buy my board seat, but I'm still here because I care about this district,” Gilmore said. “I agree that liars lie, but the only liar that lied in this election was Jim Randall.”

She was almost immediately cut off by board president Joe Beveridge, who said "You're done" in response to her comments. He asked a district employee to remove Gilmore from the meeting, and the school board took a five minute break before continuing with public comment. Gilmore asked why she was being removed, mentioning that Beveridge is Steele's brother-in-law. 

In November, Steele narrowly beat Gilmore for the seat on the board formerly held by Brent McCune. They emerged from a crowded primary election and on election night, Gilmore declared victory with a slim lead. However, county election officials later declared Steele the winner after all the votes were counted. The margin was less than 70 votes. When the results were finalized, Gilmore called into question the integrity of the election on social media but did not request a recount. 

During the election, Steele raised substantially more money than Gilmore, bringing in by far the most money of any school board candidate in both the primary and general elections. Between the two elections, she posted about $60,000 in total campaign contributions, which included some personal loans Steele made to her own campaign. Candidates in many elections do that. 

Earlier in the meeting, Jim McMullen, the deputy superintendent for district operations, laid out a list of ground rules for public comment and meeting attendance, which he said were aimed at maintaining order during the proceedings. 

“Please note that those who disrupt the meeting in any capacity will be asked to leave and lose the opportunity to attend future meetings,” he said. 

Neither Steele nor Gilmore could be reached for comment Thursday evening. Randall also did not immediately return a phone call from The Reporter seeking comment.

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