By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Two women connected to former Del Norte County administrator Ben Angove were arrested on charges of extortion and conspiracy Friday.

But, the women say, they fear their arrests are a coverup.

Bobbie Hibshman, 19, and Kristine Rathbone, 33, say they have been falsely accused of sending Angove a letter demanding $1,000 in exchange for their silence about their relationships with him and events that unfolded with him over the last two months.

The Del Norte County Sheriffs Department admitted last week it is investigating Angove, but remained silent yesterday on the progress of the investigation.

Its a coverup. Theyre covering up what happened and focusing on this, Hibshman said about the extortion charges.

According to the two women, Angove befriended Hibshman after meeting her at a local liquor store. Rathbone met Angove through Hibshman, who is her neighbor.

Since then, in several encounters, the women charge Angove acted inappropriately, but since theyve made their concerns known to the police, the only action theyve seen is their own arrests.

I feel like a pawn in a political game, Rathbone said. He said he had the key to the city in one pocket and the cops in another. I guess he was right.

Hibshman admits to having a romantic relationship with the former administrator, but said she ended the relationship about a month ago.

He was someone I really respected and admired and I thought he was being genuine and real, Hibshman said. Now, she says, she has a different opinion.

Among other things, Angove reportedly promised to help Hibshman find a job and bragged about his close political connections in Del Norte County.

That talk, however, made Rathbone nervous. Her husband, a Pelican Bay State Prison inmate, is nearing a release date, she said, so she kept worries about Angove to herself.

He said, Its not how it is that matters, its how it looks, Rathbone said, quoting Angove.

One night while discussing Angove, the two women decided to do some self-therapy, they said, and wrote nasty letters of revenge to Angove they never intended to send.

Somehow, however, one of those letters, which demanded $1,000 for their silence, found its way into Angoves hands.

Both women said there were dozens of such letters, and how Angove received one is a mystery to them. Hibshman said the pile of letters were at her apartment which she often left unlocked.

Rathbone added that the $1,000 extortion demand should, by itself, convince people she wasnt serious. That isnt enough money to do much of anything, and she added, shes very concerned about the coming release of her husband and would not do anything to upset that.

Attempts to reach Angove at his Lake Earl Drive home were unsuccessful. A recording there says his phone is disconnected.

Angove resigned as County Administrative Officer last Thursday, the day before detectives served county information services administrator Dan McCorkle with a criminal administrative subpoena to get access to Angoves office computer.

A copy of the subpoena, supplied by County Counsel Bob Black, in response to a public record request by the Triplicate yesterday, declares the Sheriffs Department and the district attorneys office have reasonable cause to believe felony or misdemeanor crimes were committed by Angove.

The subpoena says investigators are specifically looking for e-mails sent during business hours from Angoves computer.

The day before his computer was seized, Angove resigned with a one-page handwritten letter (a copy of this letter was also supplied yesterday by Black). His letter in its entirety says:

Recently, important matters have arisen in my life which require my full and immediate attention. They may be resolved in a short time or it may take months. In any event, it is not possible for me to both perform the duties of CAO and adequately address these other matters. Therefore, effective immediately, I am resigning the position of CAO.

Triplicate editor Fred Obee contributed to this report.