Halfaday is registered to vote at 2423 Sunset Road, but a two-year resident has never heard of him.
Halfaday has used 1248 Richmond Road, and it's the address of one of his contributors. Only problem for a City Council candidate: It's in the county.
PHOTO BY LISA PROVENCE
At the Jefferson School groundbreaking September 14, the topic of conversation sometimes seemed to be less the milestone the historic school had achieved, but instead the former City Council candidate who allegedly suffered Charlottesville's only earthquake injury and who had just been outed for fabricating a claim that he co-owned Snap Fitness. A few blocks away that same morning, the Charlottesville Electoral Board was sending the campaign filings of James Robert Halfaday over to the commonwealth's attorney for possible prosecution.
The fitness center and earthquake questions may be the tip of iceberg. The Hook has discovered that people residing at his listed city address have no knowledge of his living there. Moreover, some of his 21 supposed financial supporters dispute his claim that they donated exactly $499 to his campaign.
"No way," says William Nowell, pastor at New Covenant Pentecostal Church, one of the alleged contributors. "I didn't even consider him as a candidate, and I know I wouldn't give him any money."
Nowell says he's concerned about having his name associated with Halfaday; his connection with the candidate, pastor Nowell says, consisted merely of his coming to the church a few times.
"James lied," says Charlottesville resident Sharika Greene, Nowell's granddaughter, who also is listed, as is her husband, as a $499 contributor.
"I'm a caregiver, and my husband is unemployed," says Greene. "If I had $500, I'd sure be doing something else with it."
Greene says her husband, Guy, met Halfaday at Snap Fitness and worked on the campaign. After Halfaday filed a campaign finance disclosure report for the July 1-August 10 period that listed all the $499 contributions, Greene says, "He texted my husband and said, 'Tell your old lady to say she donated money to my campaign.'"
According to a pre-primary newspaper story, Halfaday claimed he received the series of $499 campaign contributions as birthday presents from eager relatives. But Greene offers a new take on the Halfaday fund-raising strategy: "He told me he donated his own money and used our names."
According to Greene, there's another bombshell about the man who would serve his city: "He lives in the county."
According to registrar Sheri Iachetta, Halfaday registered to vote and registered his candidacy using the city address of 2423 Sunset Road. However, neither of the two names on the mailbox of that split-level house is Halfaday's.
Leslie Whelan says she's lived in the lower apartment there with her husband for two years; during that time, she adds, the upstairs unit was rented by two women.
"He doesn't live here," says Whelan. "He definitely doesn't live here."
An Internet search for Halfaday turns up a Richmond Road address, one that's also the address of another $499 contributor: Dr. Kenneth Horneman. A message left for him at Barron Associates, an aerospace and healthcare research company Halfaday listed as Horneman's place of employment, elicited a return call from an employee who said Horneman was not allowed to make personal calls at work.
At Horneman's rented home at 1248 Richmond Road, a reporter's knock on the open door wasn't answered by a resident, but it did send at least four chihuahuas into a frenzy on the sun porch.
(Halfaday's Facebook post detailing his alleged neck collar-wearing injury resulting from a fallen sunroom ceiling in the August 23 earthquake describes finding his chihuahuas hiding in a corner. Could these be the same earthquake survivors?)
Halfaday lists several people named Horneman as $499 contributors to his campaign, including a couple from Waxhaw, North Carolina, Jane and Donald Horneman.
"That's a bold-faced lie," declares Jane Horneman when asked about the donation during a telephone interview. Could Donald Horneman have made the contribution?
"If he did, I'd kill him," replies Jane Horneman, declining to comment further other than to say she's "not surprised" that Halfaday's campaign has raised questions.
Repeated phone calls and emails from the Hook in the past two weeks have not produced any response from Halfaday. The 32-year-old from Dumferline, Illinois, who ran as the city's first openly gay candidate, has received more media attention since the August 20 primary, in which he finished seventh out of seven, than he did before the election.
The same day the earthquake allegedly knocked him unconscious, Halfaday– who claimed to have received a barrage of anti-gay messages during the campaign– said he was the victim of a threatening message from a married female volunteer for Democratic Council nominee Kathy Galvin. Halfaday took out an emergency protective order against the volunteer, and she was arrested after he alleged she violated the order. "There's absolutely no truth to these allegations," she told the Hook.
Later, an attorney representing Mike and Nancy Hamdani contacted the Hook to say that the Hamdanis have owned Snap Fitness since 2008 and Halfaday has never owned the fitness franchise.
If Halfaday is prosecuted for the alleged false statement of economic interest, he's looking at a Class 5 felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine. The Board of Elections also directed registrar Iachetta to turn over Halfaday's campaign finance statement to the prosecutor if the document isn't amended by September 16.
That's the date by which candidates who collected more than they spent– Halfaday allegedly got $10,479 and disbursed just $934– must either return the excess to contributors, donate it to a charity or another candidate, or keep it if the candidate intends to run for office again– and file regular statements.
The first thing that caught Iachetta's eye was the exactly $499 donation from each contributor. "To me, knowing the law that a local candidate who receives $500 or above has to file extra paperwork within 24 hours," she says, "I thought he didn't want to file the paperwork."
The second thought? "That's a lot of contributors at $499," says Iachetta. "And 'good for him' was the third thought." Halfaday was a top fundraiser for that period.
Falsifications of voter registration or of campaign finance statements are all Class 5 felonies, says Iachetta. Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman had not returned phone calls from the Hook at post time.