Suffolk County Legis. Trish Bergin (R-East Islip) will lead a three-member...

Suffolk County Legis. Trish Bergin (R-East Islip) will lead a three-member panel examining what led to Valva's death and the handling of abuse reports. Credit: Rick Kopstein

A Suffolk County legislative committee investigating the 2020 death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva plans to reconvene for the first time in 18 months to determine how to prevent future tragedies.  

The three-member panel, formed in 2020 and paused in late 2021, will be led this time by Legis. Trish Bergin (R-East Islip), with legislators Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon) and Steve Flotteron (R-Brightwaters) serving as members, according to Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), presiding officer of the legislature. 

The goal, legislators say, remains the same: examining what went wrong with the county Department of Social Services and the family court system’s handling of abuse reports, and making recommendations for reform.

Thomas froze to death on Jan. 17, 2020, after his father, Michael Valva, and Angela Pollina, his fiance at the time, forced him and his brother, Anthony, who was 10 at the time, to spend the night in the unheated garage of their Center Moriches home when it was 19 degrees outside.

After Thomas’ death, it was revealed that Suffolk Child Protective Services received dozens of complaints of abuse but did not remove Thomas or his brothers from the home.

“We’re going to drill down on everything that went wrong, from the first call that CPS received to the point of his unfortunate passing,” said Bergin, who also chairs the legislature's Health and Human Services Committee. “Then we will expand from there and try to make corrections within the department.”

The committee, which formed under a Democrat-controlled legislature, has not met since November 2021, when Republicans won control of the governing body.

McCaffrey has said he was asked by Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney to suspend the committee's investigation as the criminal case proceeded. Tierney's office has declined to confirm whether he made such a request.

Valva and Pollina have since been found guilty of causing Thomas’ death and were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Richberg, the legislature’s minority leader, said “time has been lost” by pausing the investigation, and added, “It’s incumbent on the legislature and this committee to ensure this work continues.”

Committee members hope to meet with their attorney, Lawrence Jay Braunstein, within the week to determine what information it has received before holding public meetings, Bergin said.

The committee could issue subpoenas to both DSS and family court employees, she said.

Reform recommendations could address case worker wages, staffing levels and staff requirements, she said.

County Executive Steve Bellone said the county has instituted changes in the aftermath of Thomas' death, referring to the CPS Transformation Act, a package of bills passed in 2020 regulating things like CPS caseloads.

A special Suffolk County grand jury is investigating why Thomas was killed and could bring criminal charges against or recommend terminations of county employees.

Bergin said the legislative committee's work will not interfere with that probe.

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

Summer tourism ... Shark sightings on LI . . . Dino-Mite Vintage . . . What's Up on Long Island . . . Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

Summer tourism ... Shark sightings on LI . . . Dino-Mite Vintage . . . What's Up on Long Island . . . Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV

Latest videos

YOU'VE BEEN SELECTED

FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.