PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In the first public comments from Mayor Brett Smiley about the controversy surrounding Providence Municipal Court Chief Judge Frank Caprio, the mayor said he also has questions about the judge’s TV show “Caught in Providence.”

Smiley’s office said City Solicitor Jeff Dana will conduct a review of the show and various ethical questions, as requested by City Council President Rachel Miller earlier this week, after the arrangement began receiving new scrutiny. The newly installed council is considering whether to reappoint Caprio to his judgeship.

“The solicitor is going to conduct a review and the mayor has many of the same questions that the council has which I’m sure they will explore,” chief of staff Emily Crowell said in an email. “The mayor believes both the solicitor and the council will do their due diligence prior to any appointment being made.”

Smiley was responding to repeated questions from Target 12 since last week about the mayor’s opinion about the situation, in which Caprio’s politically prominent family members produce a nationally syndicated cable program out of the city’s municipal courtroom, with the judge as its star. The production company, City Life Productions, does not pay the city for use of the court, nor have officials located any agreement between the show’s producers and the city.

“Caught in Providence” has been produced on-and-off since the 1990s, but was previously on local TV and public access television. In recent years the program has turned into a national phenomenon, getting a coast-to-coast syndication deal through a subsidiary of Lionsgate Entertainment. It currently airs on the Law & Crime Network on cable.

The program’s YouTube channel has millions of followers, with frequent viral moments as the convivial judge dismisses traffic tickets from real citizens who share their personal stories.

Judge Caprio has not responded to requests for an interview from Target 12, but he went on WPRO radio to defend the show Monday, insisting he has never profited from its production. His son, former state Rep. David Caprio, acknowledged during the same interview that he receives about $100,000 a year from the show’s production company, which he co-owns with the judge’s brother, Joseph Caprio.

The council president’s request to the solicitor includes determining whether the city has ever authorized “Caught in Providence” to be filmed or whether any formal agreements exist regarding the program. She also asked for a review of the local, state and judicial ethics rules as they apply to Caprio and the show.

Miller said the council will wait for the review to be completed before voting on the slate of three judges for the new term, which lasts four years.

Caprio, 86, said on the radio he would prefer to stay on as chief judge, though he would accept a lesser role that keeps him on the bench until he decides to retire. It’s unclear if he has the votes to remain as chief judge, or if the position could potentially go to one of the other two Municipal Court judges: state Rep. John Lombardi and former state Rep. Dan McKiernan.

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission has previously weighed in on the matter, though it was before the show went national.

In a 2015 advisory opinion requested by Judge Caprio, the commission said it was OK for the judge’s brother to receive money from the show, as long as the judge himself does not. The opinion also said any member of the public would need to have the same access to videotape the court.

However, the commission’s opinion does not take into account two other set of government guidelines, the Judicial Ethics Code or the Providence Ethics Code.

Ross Cheit, who was chair of the state Ethics Commission when Caprio received the advisory opinion, told Target 12 the matter “clearly needs to be revisited.”

Cheit — who was the only commissioner to vote against the opinion in 2015 — said at the time he was already concerned about the tentative nature of the plans for the show.

“They were in the future,” Cheit said. “That’s what bothered me.”

John Marion, the executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, has also raised questions about the arrangement.

“Does the public have the same access as the company that’s producing the show?” Marion asked. “I have questions about what happens when a person declines to be filmed by the show — how are they treated by the court?”

Patrick Butler, administrator of Providence Municipal Court, confirmed earlier this week that the judge is aware of which defendants have agreed to appear on the show.

“When the alleged traffic violators approach Judge Caprio, he or she will say if they wish to be on camera or not,” Butler said through a spokesperson.

Municipal Court proceedings take place in the Providence Public Safety Complex, but Butler said Caprio’s program does not use any offices in the building other than the courtroom.

City employees do appear on “Caught in Providence.” Robert “Ziggy” Quinn, the recently retired police inspector, was a well-known character on the show as he prosecuted traffic violations, and was also featured on the program’s social media channels.

Police department spokesperson Lindsay Lague said the production company did not reimburse the city for any of Quinn’s appearances. His city salary was $75,588.

Quinn’s replacement is Inspector David Carignan.

Miller, who was elected City Council president earlier this month, said Monday she was surprised that questions about the show’s arrangement with the city hadn’t been raised before, though she acknowledged she does not know whether former city leaders had done so.

Former Mayor Angel Taveras, who led the city from 2011 to 2015, said he does not recall any concerns being raised about the show. The program aired on public access at the time.

“I think it’s a great show, I think it’s brought positive attention to Providence,” Taveras said. “I don’t remember any discussion about it, nor was it something that bothered me.”

He said he is not aware of any agreement between the city and the TV show during his administration.

“The municipal court is essentially the City Council’s province,” Taveras said.

Former Mayor Jorge Elorza, who left office at the start of this month after two terms, could not immediately be reached.

Steph Machado ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.