Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney last Thursday speaks about the...

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney last Thursday speaks about the grand jury findings involving the  2020 hypothermia death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva in Center Moriches. Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine and District Attorney Ray Tierney made a rare joint appearance in front of the Suffolk County Legislature Tuesday, imploring members to sign on to a letter urging Gov. Kathy Hochul to adopt reforms aimed at improving child protective services.

The recommendations were contained in a grand jury report released last week after an investigation into the 2020 hypothermia death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva in Center Moriches.

The letter asks the State Legislature to amend social service confidentiality laws to allow a district attorney or grand jury to access unfounded sealed reports. The letter also asks the governor to convene two task forces to investigate the confidentiality laws and examine Civil Service requirements for caseworkers.

“We have a simple, modest proposal,” Tierney said. “We’re asking for [legislators] to co-sign that letter with us so we can implement some of these changes, so that we cannot only keep our children in Suffolk County safe, but children in New York State all over safe.”

The special grand jury, which Tierney empaneled to investigate Thomas’ hypothermia death on Jan. 17, 2020, released the report Friday, recommending no criminal charges against the county caseworkers who investigated allegations of abuse by the child’s father. Those caseworkers shielded themselves from public review of their actions — and potential criminal charges — due to confidentiality laws that must be reformed, the report found.

Thomas’ NYPD cop father, Michael Valva, and his former fiancee, Angela Pollina, were convicted of second-degree murder and child endangerment at separate trials and are serving sentences of 25 years to life in prison.

Romaine said former DSS commissioner Frances Pierre, who was named in the report, resigned Thursday after it was released, five days before her term expired Tuesday. Suffolk Deputy County Executive Sylvia Diaz will serve as interim commissioner until a permanent replacement is named.

Romaine acknowledged he had a meeting with about 150 DSS employees at a county department building in Ronkonkoma Monday that became contentious at times over the report’s findings and his comments calling for someone to take responsibility.

“I know that the overwhelming majority of people that work with social services are good, conscientious, hardworking,” he said. “But that does not mean we put accountability or transparency aside.”

Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees President Dan Levler, the union that represents CPS caseworkers, said the union was not at Monday’s meeting but should work with the county in “fixing CPS as an entire system.”

“Many of our members, including those in CPS, are on the frontlines every day working in conditions that can potentially jeopardize their personal safety in addition to the safety of the population they serve," he said in a statement. “Their safety is paramount and should not be thrown out the window as a reaction that focuses more on scapegoating and less on achieving productive solutions.”

Also Tuesday, the legislature:

By a 13 to 5 vote, with Republicans and Democrat Tom Donnelly of Deer Park in favor, approved allowing Suffolk County to bring litigation against the state challenging a new law that moves most local elections to even-numbered years, beginning in 2026,.

Most town and county elections in New York will move from odd to even years under a bill that Hochul signed into law in December. Races for governor, president and Congress are held in even years.

A resolution on the matter authorizes the county to retain the law firm Troutman, Pepper, Hamilton Sanders LLP.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman filed a lawsuit challenging the law on Friday.

Voted to transfer $11,295,897 to cover the cost of anticipated claims made by members of the county’s employee medical benefits plan in 2023, Voted to approve $7,8 million in new borrowing for law enforcement facility and equipment upgrade, That includes $4 million for the medical examiner’s laboratory,.

Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine and District Attorney Ray Tierney made a rare joint appearance in front of the Suffolk County Legislature Tuesday, imploring members to sign on to a letter urging Gov. Kathy Hochul to adopt reforms aimed at improving child protective services.

The recommendations were contained in a grand jury report released last week after an investigation into the 2020 hypothermia death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva in Center Moriches.

The letter asks the State Legislature to amend social service confidentiality laws to allow a district attorney or grand jury to access unfounded sealed reports. The letter also asks the governor to convene two task forces to investigate the confidentiality laws and examine Civil Service requirements for caseworkers.

“We have a simple, modest proposal,” Tierney said. “We’re asking for [legislators] to co-sign that letter with us so we can implement some of these changes, so that we cannot only keep our children in Suffolk County safe, but children in New York State all over safe.”

The special grand jury, which Tierney empaneled to investigate Thomas’ hypothermia death on Jan. 17, 2020, released the report Friday, recommending no criminal charges against the county caseworkers who investigated allegations of abuse by the child’s father. Those caseworkers shielded themselves from public review of their actions — and potential criminal charges — due to confidentiality laws that must be reformed, the report found.

Thomas’ NYPD cop father, Michael Valva, and his former fiancee, Angela Pollina, were convicted of second-degree murder and child endangerment at separate trials and are serving sentences of 25 years to life in prison.

Romaine said former DSS commissioner Frances Pierre, who was named in the report, resigned Thursday after it was released, five days before her term expired Tuesday. Suffolk Deputy County Executive Sylvia Diaz will serve as interim commissioner until a permanent replacement is named.

Romaine acknowledged he had a meeting with about 150 DSS employees at a county department building in Ronkonkoma Monday that became contentious at times over the report’s findings and his comments calling for someone to take responsibility.

“I know that the overwhelming majority of people that work with social services are good, conscientious, hardworking,” he said. “But that does not mean we put accountability or transparency aside.”

Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees President Dan Levler, the union that represents CPS caseworkers, said the union was not at Monday’s meeting but should work with the county in “fixing CPS as an entire system.”

“Many of our members, including those in CPS, are on the frontlines every day working in conditions that can potentially jeopardize their personal safety in addition to the safety of the population they serve," he said in a statement. “Their safety is paramount and should not be thrown out the window as a reaction that focuses more on scapegoating and less on achieving productive solutions.”

Also Tuesday, the legislature:

  • By a 13 to 5 vote, with Republicans and Democrat Tom Donnelly of Deer Park in favor, approved allowing Suffolk County to bring litigation against the state challenging a new law that moves most local elections to even-numbered years, beginning in 2026.

Most town and county elections in New York will move from odd to even years under a bill that Hochul signed into law in December. Races for governor, president and Congress are held in even years.

A resolution on the matter authorizes the county to retain the law firm Troutman, Pepper, Hamilton Sanders LLP.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman filed a lawsuit challenging the law on Friday.

  • Voted to transfer $11,295,897 to cover the cost of anticipated claims made by members of the county’s employee medical benefits plan in 2023.
  • Voted to approve $7.8 million in new borrowing for law enforcement facility and equipment upgrade. That includes $4 million for the medical examiner’s laboratory.
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