J. Michael Lenihan, the East Greenwich Democratic state senator and tireless advocate for open government causes, died at his home yesterday after a battle with cancer. He was 71.
Lenihan was a leader of government reform forces in the aftermath of the credit union collapse of the early 1990s. A burly high school history teacher, he played a crucial role in crafting legislation on lobbyist disclosure, open government records laws and increasing transparency in a state government not known for always being accountable to voters.
H. Philip West, the former executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, told the ProJo that Lenihan was a politician of courage and principle. ```Mike Lenihan had the courage to stand up and do what was right, even if he knew he was going to get pummeled for it,’’ said West.
Said U.S. Rep. James Langevin: ``Senator Lenihan was an honest man and charismatic leader who always put the needs of constituents first. He was a fierce advocate for transparency and accessibility in government and his strong moral compass defined his distinguished career in public service.’’