MONTICELLO, Ky. — A series of events at the Monticello Police Department over the past few months have led to investigations of two City Police Officers — Ronnie Ellis II by Mayor Tracie Sexton and Zachery Bybee by Kentucky State Police.
July was an active month within the police department, as Mayor Sexton reassigned Ellis to patrolman status July 16, then she reinstated him as Assistant Chief of Police retroactive to July 20 for a suspension while an investigation incurred over an incident in the squad room July 15 between Ellis and fellow Officer Zach Bybee. The end result occurred Aug. 25, as Ellis was reassigned to patrolman after he signed off on a separation agreement with the mayor which will end his eight years with Monticello Police on Dec. 31 of this year.
In the midst of turmoil, Mayor Sexton appointed Joey Hoover as Interim Assistant Monticello Police Chief on July 16. On Sept. 2, Hoover by Executive Order was appointed Assistant Police Chief. Hoover was initially hired by the Mayor in 2019. He had previously served as the City of Jamestown's Police Chief and most recently as a detective with the Russell County Sheriff’s Office.
Ellis alleged that he conducted an initial investigation of Zach Bybee (Monticello Police Chief Joe Bybee's son) in May regarding seized property, which could have accelerated an encounter between the two on July 15 in the squad room at the police department. A statement from Ellis, made available by his attorney George Bertram, states that "in the course of my employment as Assistant Chief of Police, in the month of May 2020, I began an investigation into stolen property that had been purchased by a City law enforcement officer. Given the nature of the relationships involved, I turned that investigation over to the Mayor with the understanding that the Kentucky State Police would take over." Ellis also contended that "according to the Kentucky State Police, the Mayor called in the stolen property investigation but did not want to prosecute and no case was opened."
A response from KSP in Frankfort stemming from an open records request for information states that an investigation occurred on Monticello Police Officer Zach Bybee. KSP Drug Enforcement Special Investigations division conducted the investigation on the approximate dates of May 18-May 22 of this year. Details of the investigation consisted of Monticello Police Department seized property, or more specifically, a seized Massey Ferguson Model 12 lawn tractor, being at the home and in possession of Officer Bybee. Information from Frankfort says that after a diligent search, the Kentucky State Police was unable to locate any responsive records. The open records request also stated that the Mayor called in the complaint and "did not want to prosecute," so there was never a case opened. On two different occasions within the past month, the Commonwealth Journal tried to reach the KSP detective by phone with no response.
In mid-July, Ellis was involved in a personal dispute with the same officer. On July 15, two incidents in the squad room at the Monticello Police Department involving Ellis and Zach Bybee were apparently captured by means of Bybee's body cam. There were conversations — not once, but twice between him and Ellis the same day. In the first approximate five minute video, Ellis talked to Zach Bybee about how to address his fellow officers while on the job and how Ellis expected Bybee to address him. At one point the audible portion of the video indicated Bybee raising his voice and then Ellis telling Bybee he would 'whip his ass all over the building'. Bybee asked Ellis if he was threatening him — and that's what brought about misfortune for Ellis — the threat. Ellis did tell Bybee that he felt he was going to make a good officer and he was doing a good job.
Ellis did tell Zach Bybee he would always "have his back." They shook hands a time or two signifying that all was well between the two. Ellis also mentioned to Bybee that he felt like he (Ellis) was well liked and told of his intentions to run for Sheriff in the next local election.
A squad room camera with 'no audio' also picked up the first 5 minutes and showed Chief Joe Bybee (Zach's Dad) standing almost within reaching distance behind a petition separating officers desks in the squad room. Zack Bybee's back was to the squad room camera and Ellis was visible. Chief Bybee did eventually walk around the corner where the two officers were located, but no sound could be heard from the squad room camera.
Ellis returned to active duty the first week of September as a patrolman. He will remain with the Monticello Police Department until Dec. 31, when his eight-year employment will come to an end following the separation agreement between him and Mayor Sexton. The Mayor solely makes decisions regarding Police Officers. City Council members do not act on Monticello Police matters.