A bipartisan review committee made up of three legislators voted unanimously to dismiss the charge before launching a full investigation by lawmakers assigned to hear conflict-of-interest claims against their colleagues.
Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, who heads up the joint legislative ethics body, said the complaint did not include any details supporting an alleged conflict of interest.
"We take our new responsibilities very seriously," said Mr. Johnson, who also served on the preliminary review committee and appointed the two other members. "However, we cannot look into vague charges based on gossip and rumor without any evidence supporting the charge. To do so would turn this committee into a circus and invite kooks and partisans to file false charges."
Bobby Kahn, chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party, filed the complaint against Mr. Richardson Jan. 5, just before this year's legislative session started.
He said the speaker's relationship with a female lobbyist for Atlanta Gas Light came at a time when the natural gas company was trying to streamline approval for a $300 million pipeline to be built from the liquefied natural gas terminal near Savannah.
"Now that these baseless political attacks are behind me, I look forward to continuing to do the job I have been elected to do," Mr. Richardson said.
The State Ethics Commission this week also dismissed a separate complaint Mr. Kahn filed against Mr. Richardson about his campaign finance filings.
Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (678) 977-4601 or firstname.lastname@example.org.