On Jan. 17, 2020 Thomas Valva died after authorities said his father, Michael Valva, and his fiancée, Angela Pollina, forced him and his brother to sleep in an unheated garage overnight as the outside temperature fell to 19 degrees.
The Suffolk County Legislature responded and convened the Special Legislative Committee to Investigate the Untimely Death of Thomas Valva to analyze the circumstances that led to his tragic death.
On Feb. 4, 2020, the special committee approved the issuance of a subpoena for all pertinent case records from the Suffolk County Department of Social Services. The department refused to comply, citing NYS Social Service law, resulting in the special committee commencing litigation to compel production of the documents. The motion was filed on April 2, 2020, as an Article 78 proceeding.
Child Protective Service files remain confidential in most cases. However, these materials can be released if a child dies and if their release would not endanger any surviving children. On Monday, NYS Supreme Court Justice Joseph Santorelli issued a non-final decision authorizing an in-camera review of these documents by the court. After the in-camera review, Santorelli will render a final determination regarding whether or which documents shall be released to the special committee.
“The legislature is a co-equal branch of government and has a right to understand what led to this unimaginable tragedy. We need to address any shortcomings in our county departments to ensure something like this does not happen again,” said Suffolk County Legislature presiding officer Rob Calarco. “These documents are essential to this process and I am pleased that the court is reviewing them for potential release to our special committee for analysis. Nothing can bring Thomas back. But by diligently examining all facets of this case, we can honor his memory and find solutions that will better protect our most vulnerable population.”
Calarco, deputy presiding officer Kara Hahn and Legis. Tom Cilmi are the three members of the Special Legislative Committee and will continue to seek answers as it relates to this case.
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