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The known unknowns 

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That Lois Lerner and the IRS are on the hot seat for an alleged system crash that erased two years' worth of emails underscores the importance of being able to trace what public officials say to each other, and to others.

While the city of Colorado Springs hasn't claimed — yet — that a system crash wiped out officials' messages, it does make the argument that once an email is deleted, at the discretion of an official, any official, it's gone and doesn't have to be retrieved. It doesn't matter if it's available on servers, because the city doesn't search servers for deleted emails.

People who might want to know what a city official said to someone or what someone said to him or her are out of luck if the city official deemed the messages not worth keeping.

As you'll find by clicking to "Ain't no sunshine," we only recently discovered that the city interprets state disclosure laws and its own policy so loosely that it's tantamount to exempting itself from the Colorado Open Records Act. It's as though the city doesn't believe the people have a right to know how it conducts its business.

Watchdog organizations that track compliance with state-mandated disclosure laws say it might be time to revisit what those laws require. Until more straightforward guidelines are in place, however, the city and other government agencies seem free to adopt standing orders of "read, delete... poof!"

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