A Michigan township lost a $500 legal case. They have to pay $140,000 in legal fees

A small community in Michigan's Thumb region has a large legal bill. 

Greenleaf Township, population 740, must pay roughly $140,000 in legal fees to a resident who won a $500 verdict in a dispute over Michigan's open meetings law. 

An appeals court affirmed the award, which is more than the township's annual budget. 

The township argued that the fees were excessive when compared to the small amount awarded to Christina Gibbard. 

But the court noted that state law grants "actual" legal fees to the winning side in an open meetings claim. 

Gibbard and Shelly Cook are watchdogs in the Sanilac County township. They sued Greenleaf officials over open meetings violations as well as as First Amendment retaliation and other allegations.